The price of success – How much does it cost to be an Olympic hopeful?

16 February 2017

In the summer of 2016, the University of Bath celebrated its greatest swimming success since the inception of the National Training Centre (NTC) when swimmers Jazz Carlin (2), Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and Chris Walker-Hebborn brought home four medals from the Olympic Games in Rio.

Each athlete fully embraced their time on the podium, and were welcomed back to Bath by a sell-out crowd at the University.

But during the celebrations, far from the foreground were the stories of the physical, emotional and, importantly, financial costs endured by each athlete throughout their careers prior to this moment of success.

“Trips to swimming meets can easily cost up to £500 each,” says 18-year old swimmer Tom Sinclair, one of the next generation of success hopefuls at the University.

“Travel costs can be really expensive. For example, we’re travelling to Edinburgh in March for a meet. On top of travel you have costs for accommodation, meals and the entry fee itself.

“And we usually go to one meet a month – though not always as expensive as Edinburgh – so the costs can add up.”

New Zealand-born Sinclair is a first-year Economics student at the University, and was awarded a Bill Whiteley scholarship after securing a place on the course.

Silver media for Michael Jamieson, London Olympic Games - Day 5. Photo: Tony Marshall/PA Wire
London 2012 silver medallist and former University of Bath scholar Michael Jamieson

The prestigious scholarship is awarded to one new student each year and lasts throughout the duration of their degree programme. Allocation of the funding is on the basis that the recipient student must be academically able and must possess outstanding sporting potential.

“The scholarship helps me with the financial costs of travel, equipment, food and general living costs,” Sinclair continues.

“It’s also very motivational. It makes me think that I have the support of people at the University, and that they think I have potential.”

Sinclair trains under coach Mark Swimming as part of the University’s student swimming programme, but still gains inspiration seeing the successes of the NTC stars who share the same facilities and who pass on advice to the younger swimmers.

“I’ve spoken with some of the NTC swimmers, and I know the coaches too. That’s helped in terms of nutritional advice and doing the right things to become a better swimmer.

“It’s definitely inspirational to see swimmers like Siobhan-Marie [O’Connor] and Andrew [Willis] do so well at the Olympics. It makes me more confident to think that if I share the same facilities as them, there’s no reason I can’t achieve what they do.”

Past scholars at the University of Bath, the first university in the UK to offer sport scholarships and a renowned international hub for sport, include Olympic silver medallists Michael Jamieson and Samantha Murray but, while inspired by the success stories of fellow scholars, Sinclair is keen to keep his feet firmly on the ground and work towards realistic short-term goals.

“My short-term goals are to get close to the FINA qualifying times needed for big international meets,” he says. “Because I’m from New Zealand – and places are available for two swimmers from each country – it’s slightly less competitive for me than between British swimmers, but I still need to work hard to get to the FINA times.

“Maybe next year my goal will then be to achieve those qualifying times, but at the moment we’re taking things on a short-term basis rather than looking at the end goal.”

Today 61 student athletes who have displayed potential for success both academically and athletically are currently benefiting from our scholarships – including 23 new scholarships awarded during the 2016-17 academic year.

The scholarships are supported by alumni and friends of the University who are passionate about giving talented young people the opportunity to benefit from Bath’s world-leading sporting and academic environment.

To find out more, visit our scholarships pages.

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