For Hannah Campbell-Pegg, hurtling down an ice track, at up to 146 kilometres per hour, is part of any ordinary day.
Only the third Australian – and first UTS graduate – to compete in luge at the Winter Olympics, the 27-year-old placed twenty-third at last month’s Vancouver Games.
Campbell-Pegg slid into luge in 2004 after a two-year stint with the Australian bobsleigh team. Though she acknowledges the sport can be risky, the athlete is quick to add that crashes “are also a humbling experience; they make you more alert and aware of yourself on the track.”
It was a lesson she learnt early. During her first year in the sport, at the World Cup in Calgary, Canada, Campbell-Pegg’s sled crashed. Five hours later, she woke in intensive care suffering head and shoulder injuries, fractured vertebrae and a fractured cheekbone.
A fierce competitor with “no regrets”, by 2006 Campbell-Pegg was back on the track placing twenty-third in her Olympic Games debut.
This year, her focus is on performance. “My goal for the Olympics was four solid, clean runs.
“There are so many factors that have to be working together in order to do well in this sport, I have created my own little goals, like working on aerodynamic positions, start times and an overall personal best time.”
On her Olympic blog, Campbell-Pegg recalls a November 2009 race in Igls, Austria, where only one second separated the top 40 competitors. “That extra little peek in between corners that cost you one hundredth, or your toes not being exactly pointed for the whole 40 seconds of the race, or the one inch too early that you entered the curve, costing you a thousandth. So many factors can make the difference between first and fortieth place.”
Back home, Campbell-Pegg has always been considered a success. “Hannah embodies all the wonderful characteristics of a true champion and she’s everything you could hope for in a UTS Elite Athlete Program athlete,” says UTS Union Director of Programs and Sport, Elizabeth Brett.
In 2008, while undertaking a Bachelor of Teaching in Secondary Education (she also completed a Bachelor of Human Movement at UTS in 2005), Campbell-Pegg was awarded a sports scholarship through the UTS Union’s Elite Athlete Program.
The Olympian credits the scholarship as an integral part of her Games preparation. “In 2008, the UTS scholarship was my prime source of funding. I also received a lot of support whilst training, competing and studying. I honestly would never have been able to finish my second degree in one year – and before the Olympics – unless I had the support of the UTS Union negotiating with lecturers and working out different study options. So I really owe a lot of thanks to the UTS sports scholarship.”
Last year, Campbell-Pegg funded her season with an International Olympic Committee Olympic Scholarship for Athletes (awarded by the Australian Olympic Committee) and by working as a substitute teacher in Sydney high schools.
With the next Games four years away, Campbell-Pegg is weighing up whether she’ll stick with the sport she loves, return to teaching or head back to UTS to complete another degree.
“A huge part of the decision will depend on finances. I’ve racked up quite a few debts over the years. One of my goals is to develop a program to find more young Australian luge competitors so the sport doesn’t live and die with me. I know many un-athletic and middle-aged Aussies wanting to compete in the sport thinking it’s easy, but it’s not. It’s the most physically and mentally demanding sport I’ve ever done.”
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Photograph supplied by: UTS Union