EUSA Insider:

Unisport Austria

Founded: 1848
Current Headquarters: Vienna
Website:                                                                                    Published 23 October 2020

Firstly, for those who do not know, please tell us a bit about your National University Sports Association …
University Sport in Austria officially started at the University of Vienna, with an imperial-ministerial decree on 24 September, 1848. The agenda of university sports has always been part of the performance of the Federal Ministry responsible for the universities. Today Unisport Austria takes over the agenda of the National University Sports Organisation.

The public universities are autonomous and their legally instituted seven University Sport Departments provide grassroots sports and regional championships for students and university staff by choice to every university on site. With 155.000 participants each year, they count to the biggest multi-sport-providers in Austria. Overall, there are 22 public universities, 21 universities of applied sciences, 16 private universities and 14 university colleges of teacher education in Austria with more than 350 000 students and 62 000 university employees.

Can you describe some of the major events your NUSA has hosted in recent years, both national and international?
The organisation of national university championships and the participation in European and international university championships are just one part of the task. Additionally the team of Unisport Austria has a strategic field of duty: the national strategic controlling over the whole university sports sector and legally giving direction and financing for all university sports department through performance agreements of their Universities (includes around 90% of national university sports).

In 2019, 116 regional university championships with more than 10 000 participants and 7 national university championships with more than 300 participants took place.

UniSport Austria at the FISU Winter Games

What have been some of the highlights for your NUSA in recent years?
Austria participated in 10 European Universities Championships with 96 student athletes and in two Universiades with a total of 65 student-athletes. With 18 gold, 20 silver and 14 bronze medals in European and International University Sports Championships, 2019 was a quite successful year, but it is also worth remembering the EUSA Games in Zagreb-Rijeka 2016 and Coimbra 2018. We are grateful that EUSA and the Organizing Committees realized so great multisport events. 95 athletes from 8 Austrian Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences won 14 medals in Zagreb-Rijeka 2016; 84 athletes from 8 Austrian Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences won 4 medals in Coimbra 2018.

At the Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk Jessica Gfrerer, the outstanding female athlete in Alpine Skiing won three gold medals. Hence, she was the most successful Alpine Skiing competitor of the event. Also the Summer Universiade 2019 in Napoli brought records: one gold medal in Judo and the first Universiade-medals in Sailing and in Artistic Gymnastics for Austria.

How important are the EUSA events – both sporting and educational – for your NUSA?
Concerning the COVID-19 Pandemic, we really welcome the postponement of EUSA Games Belgrade. We hope that it enables all the athletes to arrive at the EUSA Games in 2021 at maximum preparedness and to compete on equal terms. The athletes know what to expect from the Games: the great opportunity to get to know many young people from all over Europe sharing the same passion, namely sports.

“I am convinced that Austrian university sport will continue to contribute to life at Austrian universities and cohesion in international university sport in the next 150 years.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted university sport across the world. How was your NUSA able to adapt to the situation, what activities have you still managed to organise and are there any positives you have noted from these difficult circumstances?
Crisis is a productive state and a food for thought! Although University Sport in Austria is mostly stately funded, all institutions had to adapt to the COVID-19-restrictions to keep them going. New digital models to provide sports (for grassroots and championships) were developed and applied at the universities. Additionally to the nowadays lowered rate of students in the presence courses and championships, a total new field to generate income opens possibilities and are a chance to rethink.

UniSport Austria medallists

Finally, what does the future of university sport in your country hold?
We are now looking forward to organising the WUC Sports Climbing in 2022 in cooperation with the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Climbing Federation.

And in the words of Unisport Austria’s Acting President Ms Hemma Angerer, “I am convinced that Austrian university sport will continue to contribute to life at Austrian universities and cohesion in international university sport in the next 150 years.”

*All photos courtesy of Unisport Austria

EUSA wishes Unisport Austria well for all their future endeavours, and looks forward to seeing their NUSA members and student-athletes at many of our events in future!