Mac Rogers' Guinness World Record and STEM success proof it comes from multiple pathways
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In a world where sport stars seem to be worshipped everywhere, it is easy for kids to want be the next Lionel Messi, Johnathan Thurston or Cathy Freeman.
It is not quite as easy to find an engineering or tech hero to look up to.
North Queensland's Mac Rogers is just 18 but already showing you can strive to be both.
He has already held two world records, won a television show contest and made waves with his academic endeavours — testament that life's passions do not need to be exclusive.
"I don't think you do necessarily need to pigeonhole yourself," Mac said.
"I think if you apply yourself there's success to be found anywhere — everywhere — if you look for it."
Mac first excelled in gymnastics and then found a love for ring muscle ups.
They are similar to chin ups, but involve rings instead of a bar and the need for arms to be fully extended above the rings.
In 2021 he attempted and broke the Guinness World Record for the most ring muscle ups in an hour and then last year completed the most in eight hours.
But the long certification process meant his records had been broken before he knew he held them.
"It wasn't something I'd really planned or trained for a long time," Mac said.
"I just knew that I was pretty good at doing muscle ups and I saw the record and realised I could probably break that if I do maybe one every 20 seconds, and turns out I could."
He is part of the Queensland Academy of Sport talent identification program for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics for rowing, canoe sprint and pole vault.
Sport does not take up all of his time, however.
Mac was the 2022 the Proserpine State High School captain and dux, and was just awarded Whitsunday Regional Council's 2023 Young Citizen of Year.
His science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills have also led to a stint on TV competing in — and winning — The Ultimate Classroom challenge.
"We had no idea we were gonna win and, to be honest, we started off on our final episode really poorly," Mac said.
"We got absolutely wrecked by the other teams and it came down to a situation where we had to win every challenge following that."
Mac will soon begin a mechatronic engineering degree in Brisbane.
Mac is not alone in his pursuit of sporting glory and academic success, with some of Australia's highest performing athletes also building upon interests outside of sport.
2016 Olympic silver medallist Dr Alexander Belonogoff said he fell in love with rowing at high school.
"It was a bit of a balance back then, just trying to sort of figure out how to both train whilst also getting all the study done," Dr Belonogoff said.
After graduation he put his study on hold to focus on sport, winning world championship medals and silver at the Rio Olympics.
Dr Belonogoff then turned his focus back to education, finished his studies and became a doctor.
"I really do think that the people who do [have multiple interests in school] are the people who have better balance and are the people who end up getting the most out of both experiences, just because they don't have their eggs all in one basket," he said.
Benita Willis is one of Australia's greatest long distance runners but also has a bachelor of education and a postgraduate degree in nutrition.
Ms Willis said she found great benefits in having different interests while growing up.
"I actually hung around with a lot of different circles of friends — music friends, academic friends and sporty friends," she said.
"They were all great and we had a good time."
Queensland Academy of Sport Talent and Coaching director Troy Ayres said that even at an elite level, athletes were encouraged to have other interests or career plans.
"Having those other things in your life, we think, just helps to give you that little bit more balance and perspective, and you can lean on other things," he said.
"That's also social circles, you know, family, friends, and those things.
"In elite sport, and particularly olympic and paralympic sport where there's not as much financial incentive around with contracts and things, they're generally really good at following an extra career."
For Mac, however, life is just about doing what he loves, and doing something meaningful.
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