Meet 3 athletes who are nailing the balance between work, sport and study

They’re our nominees for the 2023 Open Universities Australia Performance Lifestyle Award—and their stories are sure to inspire you. 

Georgia Sheehan, Liam Twomey and Kiera Austin


As online education experts, we know that balancing study with the rest of your life involves an incredible amount of grit, focus and drive.

It’s why we’re proud sponsors of the Victorian Institute of Sport’s Performance Lifestyle Award, which is presented every year during the VIS Award of Excellence event. This award goes to an athlete who has achieved personal success in their studies and career ambitions while also excelling in their sport. 

Though only one winner will be announced on 23 November, we think all three of the 2023 finalists have stories worth sharing with you, because their accomplishments demonstrate where hard work and study can take you. So, allow us to introduce them to you now. 

Georgia Sheehan

Georgia Sheehan

Springboard diver

Georgia Sheehan might only be 23-years old, but she’s already seen as a role model in the Australian athletic community.   

The springboard diver worked diligently to complete her Bachelor of Creative Industries in 2022 while competing internationally—even managing to squeeze multiple marketing internships, the World Championships, and the Commonwealth Games around her journalism studies. 

But it’s Georgia’s openness about her mental health journey that inspired us to select her as a Performance Lifestyle Award finalist. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, Georgia realised she was facing burnout and decided to take a break from diving, without knowing if she would ever return.  

As she told The Australian in July 2023, this ended up being the right decision for her health and her career, because it gave her the mindset change she needed to strive even harder than before. “I don’t think I’d be looking at potentially qualifying for an Olympics without that break,” she said, adding that she continues to access VIS wellbeing and sports psychology support to deal with the challenges that come with elite diving, like competition anxiety.  

Our panel found Georgia’s courage admirable—especially after hearing that she now mentors young people going through similar challenges while putting her qualification to use as a social media manager. 

There’s no doubt Georgia has already accomplished a lot in her sport, studies and personal life—and with a potential Paris 2024 qualification on the horizon, there’s more yet to come.  

Liam Twomey

Liam Twomey 

Para triathlete

Like Georgia, Liam Twomey has spent years combining an incredible training and studying schedule with work in mental health advocacy.  

The para triathlete knows all too well what it’s like to navigate adversity as a young person, because he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that is found in and around the bones, when he was only 8 years old. 

After he had his right leg amputated below the knee, Liam struggled with his own mental health challenges until discovering his love for para-triathlon, the endurance sport that challenges athletes to swim 750 metres, cycle 20 kilometres and run 5 kilometres. 

Today, Liam shares his story with high school students and community groups in the hopes that he can teach them about resilience and staying mentally fit. He fits this work around training for a qualifying place at the 2024 Paralympics and completing a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at Deakin University, a degree that will allow him to support other athletes behind the scenes when he retires from his sport. 

We find Liam’s work ethic incredibly inspiring, which is why he has been selected as a Performance Lifestyle Award nominee. 

Kiera Austin

Kiera Austin

Netball player

The last nominee on our list is Kiera Austin, an elite netball player who also understands the realities of balancing study and sport. 

During 2023, Kiera completed her Bachelor of Medical Science with Macquarie University while playing in every single Melbourne Vixens game; a feat that was only possible due to the flexibility of online study

She was also instrumental in helping our national team the Australian Diamonds win the 2023 Netball World Cup final, taking out the title of Most Valuable Player after the game. 

We chose Kiera as our third finalist for the Performance Lifestyle Award because she has demonstrated an impressive commitment to her career development while striving for the best in her sport. She hopes to one day work in female health and devotes her very limited free time to volunteering in this area. After the Netball World Cup, Kiera spent her break volunteering in Zimbabwe with Netball Development Trust, a UK-based netball coaching charity that uses sports to educate young people about sexual and reproductive health. 

She is also actively involved in The Tie-Dye Project, a charity initiative that sells thousands of tie-dyed products every year to raise money for sarcoma research. 

With some potential further study on the horizon, Kiera’s future is looking bright, and we can’t wait to see where her dual careers take her next.   


Keep an eye on our social media channels to find out the winner of the Open Universities Australia Performance Lifestyle Award, which will be announced at the 2023 VIS Award of Excellence on 23 November. No matter the outcome, we hope hearing these stories have motivated you with what you can achieve through your own studies. 

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