Olympic, World and Commonwealth crowns among highlights of unforgettable sporting 2018 at University of Bath
One historic Olympic title defence, two World crowns, three Commonwealth gold medals and a multitude of other national and international medals added up to another outstanding year of sport at the University of Bath in 2018.
The University’s unique push-start track, the only one of its kind in the UK, became the focus of national attention in February when three athletes who train on it with British Skeleton won medals for Team GB at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Lizzy Yarnold demonstrated once again what a phenomenal competitor she is when she brilliantly defended her title in the women’s race, becoming Team GB’s most successful Winter Olympian in the process.
Joining her on the podium during a truly Super Saturday was team-mate Laura Deas, whose bronze medal matched the achievements 24 hours earlier of University of Bath Mechanical Engineering PhD student Dom Parsons – he had become Britain’s first men’s skeleton medallist since 1948 when he finished a fantastic third.
Team Bath Netball’s Eboni Usoro-Brown (nee Beckford-Chambers) and Kadeen Corbin helped England to a first-ever Commonwealth title in unforgettable style, the winner against defending champions Australia being scored in the last second of an absorbing contest.
Serena Guthrie, who has returned to the Blue & Gold for the 2019 Vitality Superleague season, was also part of the history-making Roses squad, who were named as Team of the Year at the 2018 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, part of the British Swimming National Centre Bath squad, successfully defended her 200m individual medley title in the pool and team-mate James Guy won five medals.
Anna Hopkin – coached by Mark Skimming and one of six University students competing in Australia – also won bronze alongside O’Connor in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay. The MJ Church Ambassador was later named as BUCS [British Universities & Colleges Sport] Sportswoman of the Year.
Other medallists on the Gold Coast included 400m hurdler Eilidh Doyle, who claimed her third successive Commonwealth silver medal, and 200m bronze-medallist Leon Reid, while triathlete Vicky Holland helped England to mixed team relay silver.
Holland – coached by Rhys Davey at the Sports Training Village – went on to enjoy a stunning season on the ITU World Triathlon Series, winning three gold medals and two silver as she claimed the overall title for the first time in her career.
That was the second global title for University-based sportspeople in two days following a magnificent gold medal for Jamie Cooke at September’s World Championships in Mexico, the Pentathlon GB ace grabbing victory literally on the line after a lung-busting finish to the run-shoot.
Cooke and his Pentathlon GB team-mates will be aiming for more success closer to home in August 2019 when their University of Bath training base hosts the Modern Pentathlon European Championships – a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
It is one of two major continental sporting events being staged at the Sports Training Village in the new year, with the University also being selected as the host venue for the first Fed Cup tie in Great Britain since 1993.
The Europe/Africa Zone Group I stage is taking place from February 6-9 and will feature the host nation, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. The indoor Team Bath Tennis courts – used by thousands of people of all ages every month – will be transformed, with capacity for more than 2,000 fans per session to watch the action on show courts which are being specially constructed for the event.
The University’s capacity to host major sporting events was illustrated to a 100-million global audience in April when the Invictus Games GB trials returned for a third successive year. Cheering on the hundreds of competitors were Prince Harry – Patron of the Invictus Games Foundation – and his then fiancée Meghan Markle, whose attendance attracted media coverage from around the world.
Kelly Ganfield, who trains at Team Bath with Strength & Conditioning Coach George Studd, was among the 72 successful trialists selected to represent Britain at the Invictus Games Sydney and made history by becoming the first visually-impaired athlete to win a medal.
Other notable achievements for University-based sportspeople in 2018 included European Championships gold for wheelchair fencer Dimitri Coutya; silver for Team Bath Buccaneers at the Jaffa Super 6s Indoor Hockey Championships; a GB debut for Team Bath Synchro Club founder Ila Brandimarte; British Judo titles for Adam Hall, Rhys Thompson, Gregg Varey and Oliver Nash; and Davis Cup and Wimbledon appearances for Liam Broady.
University of Bath student-athletes also continued to excel in 2018 with MJ Church Ambassador and windsurfer Sarah Jackson being crowned as Youth Slalom World Champion while King Sporting Scholar Tim Nurse, alongside Team Bath Buccaneers team-mate Stuart Rushmere, helped Great Britain Hockey U21s triumph at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia.
Fresher Molly Chapman represented England at the World Junior Badminton Championships; Filippos Iakovidis set a new 100m backstroke national record for Cyprus at the World Short-Course Swimming Championships in China; Santander Sporting Scholar Hugo Stiles helped Hong Kong to a first-ever Rugby 7s gold at the Asian Games; and there were 28 medals, including eight gold, across five different sports at the 2018 BUCS Nationals.
With a number of teams sitting top of their respective BUCS divisions at Christmas, there promises to be plenty more student sporting success to celebrate during a 2019 when the new £3.5million Team Bath Gym & Fitness Centre – a two-storey addition to the existing gym facilities – will open to the public.