- International BMX competition
- Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance
It’s taken six years of hard work - juggling university study with training and international competitions - but on December 14, BMX champion Cole McOnie (Ngāi Tahu) will walk across the stage at the Globox Arena in Claudelands to graduate from the University of Waikato.
The 25-year-old will receive a Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance degree, one of around 600 people to graduate across three ceremonies next week.
Cole is also the 90,000th person to graduate from Waikato, a milestone moment in the institution’s 58-year history.
“It’s pretty surreal to think that I’m part of a group of that many people, who are similar but with their own unique journey through University,” says Cole, who was honoured at a special morning tea ceremony, alongside some early graduates, this week. “I haven’t done anything different to the 89,999 people who have come before me. They have all gone through the University and have made it through their degree and walked across the stage. Everyone has a different story, different background and different future. It’s special to be a part of this group.”
He is excited to graduate in front of his family on Wednesday.
“It’s something I’m really proud to have achieved.”
Cole has been racing as an elite BMX rider since he was 18. His sport has taken him around the world, competing at world racing competitions.
During the New Zealand winters, he bases himself in the Netherlands, and has also travelled to Belgium, France, Colombia, South America, USA, England, Australia and China with his sport.
A Waikato boy at heart, Cole was born at Waikato Hospital and grew up in Te Awamutu, attending Pekapekarau Primary School, Te Awamutu Intermediate and later Hamilton Boys’ High School.
Naturally, the University of Waikato was his first choice when it came to tertiary study.
“I never seriously considered anywhere else. I knew people who had gone to Waikato and only heard good things about it.
The location was also pivotal for training.
“For BMXing, Waikato is the hub of the country - it is where you need to be.”
Cole was offered a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship, which provided him with financial support, mentoring and leadership training over the course of his studies at Waikato.
“Having a University degree paid for and funded by the scholarship was insane. It made such a significant difference to me financially, enabling me to travel, race and prioritise my money for sport,” says Cole.
His studies have given Cole the knowledge to push himself as an athlete.
“The degree has made such a big difference to my sporting career; having the knowledge and insights to be able to talk to my coach and sports scientists, to have in-depth discussions and input into what we can try and test, and trusting that I now know what I’m talking about.”
He particularly enjoyed learning about physiology and biomechanics, often using himself as a test subject to improve his performance.
Cole is aiming for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Alongside training, he currently works part-time on the social media team at Cycling New Zealand.
Beyond BMXing, he hopes to use his degree in the future to support high performance athletes.
“If it’s not me, it’s helping other people that they can be the best athletes they can be.”
Although he graduates in December 2022, Cole isn’t ruling out future study.
"I don't think it’s the end of my educational journey. I’m pretty confident that I’m doing my master’s at some point, so it’s not the end.”