Margot, Izzy and Jasmine: Trinity's champion sportswomen

By Susan Gough Henley

To round out IWD week, we share the stories of three Trinity women who have succeeded in sport.

Margot FosterMargot Foster AM

Olympic rower and bronze medallist Margot Foster AM (TC 1976) has strong ties to Trinity as a Fellow, board member and past president of the Union of the Fleur-de-Lys. The College also played a pivotal role in her sporting success, given it was where she tried rowing for the first time.

‘I started rowing in my third year at Trinity in 1978, when doing my law/arts degree, because a few people pressured me into it. After initially resisting I found that I liked it a lot and I proved to be quite good at it,’ she laughs. ‘Duck to water, and the rest is history.

‘Women’s intercollegiate rowing had commenced a few years earlier following the admission of women into the colleges as they became co-ed. Expectations weren’t too high, but we did have to make sure we didn’t crash the boat into any of the bridges on the Yarra!’

As well as rowing for Trinity, Margot rowed intervarsity from 1978–80. In 1980, she was selected in the Melbourne University women’s eight to compete at the national championships. This was her first taste of the big time.

After finishing her degree in the same year, she started her own criminal law firm while continuing rowing. She was selected in her first Victorian crew, the coxed four, in 1981 and, from then, rowed in Victorian and Melbourne University crews every year. 

In 1984, Margot raced in the coxed four at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal. It was the second women’s crew to represent Australia at the Olympics since women’s rowing became an Olympic sport in 1976.

‘I’m particularly proud of the fact that we were the first Australian women rowers to win an Olympic medal,’ she says.

In 1986, she stroked the women’s eight to win gold at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

‘We’re still the champions as rowing ceased to be a Commonwealth Games sport after 1986. In 1988, we won all of our selection races but, sadly, the Australian rowing selectors decided not to send any women to the Seoul Olympics, no correspondence entered into,’ Margot says.

‘As it turns out, even though I didn’t realise it at the time, moving into Trinity was a catalytic event in my life. Trinity opened the door to rowing for me. And rowing opened the door to so many opportunities I don’t think I would have had otherwise.’ 

Margot has served on a range of boards, including Vicsport and Motorsport Australia, and is an advisory council member of Sport Integrity Australia, as well as consulting on mediation and governance issues with a wide range of sporting organisations. She also chairs a panel for World Athletics and is chairman of the Sports Environment Alliance.

‘Certainly, I would not have done what I’ve done if I’d not taken up rowing. I would have just been another boring lawyer,’ she laughs.


Izzy McPharlinIsabelle McPharlin (née Napier)

Pole vaulter Isabelle (Izzy) McPharlin (TC 2014) won five gold medals at the University Nationals, competed three times at the Australian National Athletics Championships and won gold for Australia at the Melanesian Athletics Championships in Vanuatu in 2018.

‘I grew up in Warragul, Gippsland, and discovered pole vaulting when I came to a training session in Melbourne at the age of 15,’ says Isabelle. ‘It was a big step up in my sporting life when I started university, as I finally had access to great athletic facilities both at Melbourne University and in Box Hill.

‘In my last three years at uni, I was lucky enough to receive an Elite Athlete Program scholarship. With about 300 people in the program, it was great to do strength and conditioning training with athletes in different sports such as fencing, karate and single sculling. I found it inspiring to train alongside them and learn about their unique challenges. This sharing of experiences was particularly helpful for me as an athlete who competed in an individual event rather than a team sport.

‘With pole vault, you’re always proud when you jump your personal best. These become fewer and far between the better you get. Pole vaulting is often as challenging mentally as it is physically. You’re always asking, what is it that I can do to jump higher?’

Isabelle spent all six years of her university life at Trinity; four studying landscape architecture as part of a Bachelor of Environments degree and two as a resident tutor while doing a masters degree in teaching. During this time, she was training and competing in pole vault, but also made time to represent Trinity in intercollegiate sports such as athletics, AFL, squash, softball, swimming and rowing.

‘I loved Trinity so much. It was a very formative part of my life with so many opportunities and experiences. It opened my eyes to a more global society,’ she says, adding, ‘I also met my husband there.’

Izzy and her husband, George, now work as teachers at Hale School, a private boys’ school in Perth.

‘It’s been fantastic to teach young boys and have the opportunity to coach athletics. It’s a privilege to use my athletics skills to nurture a love of sport in the next generation.’


Jasmine DennisonJasmine Dennison

Showjumping equestrian Jasmine Dennison (TC 2019) rode on the professional circuit from the age of 14 and represented Australia at World Cup level, competing in Mexico, Taiwan, New Zealand and Germany, all the way through her first year at university.

Jasmine began riding as a seven-year-old and was heavily involved in the equestrian team at Toorak College on the Mornington Peninsula. This led to her participation in interstate and World Cup competitions.

‘I’ve learnt from a young age about the importance of a strong work ethic,’ she says. ‘It helps when you love what you do, but it also teaches you about time management. I had to get up early every morning to feed and care for my horses and then ride every afternoon after school. A showjumper has a very close partnership with their horse, which teaches you a lot about commitment and resilience even when things don’t go your way.

‘I’m very passionate about my studies too. I appreciate all the opportunities I’ve been given. I want to make the most of them and be the best I can be.’

Jasmine has put her showjumping on hold for a while, as she focuses on studying towards a career in medicine. ‘I loved science at school and when I took off a year between school and university, I worked in a stem-cell research lab while also showjumping. It cemented my passion for science and medicine.’

Jasmine has loved her time at College too. ‘Trinity has a pretty special atmosphere because everyone is so talented and supportive,’ she says. ‘It offers such a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over Australia and the world, which makes for a great university experience.’

By Susan Gough Henly

This article first appeared in issue #90 of Trinity Today.


10 Mar 2022
Category: People