23 August; Alex Ferguson
Bachelor of Arts student Jaryd Clifford has officially been named the second recipient of the 2021 Andrew and Geraldine Buxton Athletics Scholarship.
The scholarship was established through the generosity of Andrew and Geraldine Buxton in 2017 to encourage aspiring student-athletes to study and train in Australia.
The scholarships provide an annual $10,000 cash scholarship for two student-athletes with the potential to compete at a world championship or Olympic level in athletics.
Clifford joins Catriona Bisset, who made her Olympic debut in Tokyo this year and has been supported by the scholarship since 2019, as the second recipient of 2021.
As a Paralympian and world record holder in the men’s T12 (vision impaired) 1500m, 5000m, and more recently, marathon events, Clifford this year joins Olympians Joel Baden, Regan Lamble, Jemima Montag, and Bisset as the fifth recipient of the scholarship.
When asked about what this scholarship meant for him, Clifford reflected on the support the University and the Elite Athlete Program (EAP) had already given, particularly during the lockdowns of 2020.
“It means a lot to me to be the recipient of such a prestigious scholarship”, he told us.
“I really feel a sense of pride in being part of this university”.
“During lockdown last year, [the EAP and the University] had our backs. Even if we didn’t need their resources, to know that they’re there to fall back on, to know there are people there – that just takes away the stress.”
“When moments became tough, and it felt like the thing we had been working towards our entire lives was going to disappear, just knowing that there was a community at Melbourne Uni – the elite athlete community – that was going through the motions together, that really helped me.”
As the University’s most significant athletics scholarship, the Buxton Scholarship provides an extra level of financial and in-kind support for world-class athletes like Clifford.
“A scholarship like this gives me the freedom to pursue my sport to the best of my ability.
We participate in sports where we aren’t earning millions of dollars. We’re doing sport because we love sport. It can sometimes give us a platform to make a positive change in the community, but at the end of the day, we still have to eat!”
As a keen student majoring in Criminology and Politics and International Studies within his Bachelor of Arts, the Buxton Scholarship also provides opportunities beyond the running track.
“My academics mean as much to me as my sport”, he told us. “The key to athletic success is having balance in life and passions outside running.”
“Currently, my goal in academia is to try and qualify for the Juris Doctor (JD). As a person with a disability, I see potential in the strength of the diversity in the community.”
Clifford also acknowledged the influence of being a Paralympian on the world stage, highlighting what he aims to do in the future for people living with a disability.
“I don’t think a person with a disability should have to be a great sportsperson to have the respect and dignity that we get as Paralympic athletes. It should be afforded to all people with disabilities regardless of their passions.”
“I think with my experiences and seeing how so many people with disabilities around the world are still fighting for basic rights, this has all driven me to focus on law – potentially human rights law – but focusing on the disability space.”
Having made his Paralympic debut in Rio in 2016, Clifford will compete in his second Games in Tokyo this week. Despite initially only aiming to compete in the 1500m and 5000m races, earlier this year, while pacing for teammate Michael Roeger in the Athletics Australia Tokyo Qualifying Marathon, Clifford ‘accidentally’ broke the world record in the T12 class.
With enough time for recovery in between his other two events, Clifford is now adding the marathon to his Tokyo schedule, with the Tokyo Paralympic Games kicking off on Tuesday 24 August. Clifford launches his second Paralympic appearance on Monday 30 August, with the heats for the men’s 1500m T12.