Most successful year yet for University of Bath sportspeople as gold rush and trophy triumphs provided plenty to lift the spirits during 2021
An incredible 19 medals at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, 10 of them gold, is the headline stat from an outstanding year of sport at the University of Bath but there was plenty more to celebrate during an unforgettable 2021.
From students winning the Premiership Rugby title at Twickenham and conquering the rowing world from their kitchen to Team Bath Netball lifting their first trophy for eight years and tennis players serving up a host of international titles, it has been a year that will live long in the memory.
It started with the Team Bath Sports Training Village once again sadly closed to the public due to national lockdown measures but while the fitness team streamed daily live workouts to keep the community active and engaged, other Team Bath staff worked diligently with national governing bodies on site to ensure elite athletes could safely continue their training under Government-approved guidelines.
This helped reap enormous rewards, not least at Tokyo 2020 which proved to be the most successful Olympic and Paralympic Games yet for Bath-based sportspeople.
Mechanical Engineering student Tom Dean’s magnificent swim in an unforgettable men’s 200m freestyle final sparked an Olympic gold rush for members of the British Swimming National Centre Bath elite training squad, who train in the London 2012 Legacy Pool at the University.
Dean, supported by a Bill Whiteley Sports Scholarship, also won gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay along with training partners James Guy, Matt Richards and Sports Performance graduate Calum Jarvis. Guy added another gold in the mixed 4x100m medley relay, with Sport & Exercise Science graduate Anna Hopkin anchoring the British quartet to victory in world record time, and bagged his third medal with silver in the men’s medley relay. Freya Anderson brought home mixed medley relay gold after her excellent swim in the heats.
University graduates and Pentathlon GB duo Kate French and Joe Choong then took gold within 24 hours of each other, setting new Olympic records in the process as Britain became the first country to win both the women’s and men’s modern pentathlon titles at the same Games.
The medals kept coming at the Paralympic Games, with three members of the EIS World-Class Wheelchair Fencing Programme based at the University bringing home nine between them. Piers Gilliver was crowned Paralympic Champion in the Category A epee and teamed up with training partners Dimitri Coutya and Oliver Lam-Watson to win silver in the team foil and bronze in the team epee.
Coutya also claimed individual bronze medals in the Category B epee and foil, while Maths & Physics graduate Stuart Wood brought home bronze from his first Paralympic Games in the inaugural VL3 paracanoeing competition.
In total 20 sportspeople who train at Team Bath earned selection for the Olympic Games and a further eight competed at the Paralympic Games, while nine University of Bath graduates and a host of sporting alumna also represented their countries in Tokyo. Click here to see all the selected athletes.
Among the Olympians was swimmer Ben Proud, who joined Mark Skimming’s university training group at the start of the year and ended it by storming to 50m freestyle gold at December’s World Short-Course Championships in Abu Dhabi.
There was a more unconventional way of conquering the world back in March when Sport & Exercise Science student Imy Bantick won the World Rowing Indoor Championship U23 Lightweight Women’s title from her own kitchen while competing in a virtual race during lockdown.
The easing of lockdown measures during the year meant that more traditional BUCS student sport was able to make a long-awaited return in September, with hundreds of people regularly turning out at the Sports Training Village to cheer on Rengen-sponsored Team Bath in BUCS Super Rugby.
It was a breakthrough year for a host of current and past men’s 1st XV players as they made their top-flight debuts for Premiership clubs, not least Jack Kenningham who seized his opportunity with both hands to become a regular starter for Harlequins as they won the Premiership title – the final at Twickenham coming in the same month he graduated from the University in Sports Performance.
Sport Management & Coaching student Grace Crompton, supported by the Team Bath Dual Career programme, made a successful GB Rugby Sevens debut in September and has been named alongside alumna Amy Wilson-Hardy in the England Sevens core group for 2022.
The England Rugby Women 15s squad visited the University during July for a month-long training camp as they began to ramp up their preparations for the 2022 Rugby World Cup.
More events safely returned to an increasingly buzzy Sports Training Village as the year progressed, with November’s Strength in Depth Origins Final – the seventh ultimate team test of endurance and fitness to be staged at Team Bath – attracting a record entry of more than 1,000 competitors across 80 teams.
A host of the most promising young tennis players from the UK and around the world also visited as the STV hosted two big tournaments – the first-ever Tennis Europe Junior International Bath and Round 7 of the UK Pro-League. The latter competition saw Giles Hussey win the men’s event, one of 19 senior titles won by Team Bath Tennis players on the national and international circuit during a fantastic year. Click on the image below to see the roll of honour.
Also getting their hands on silverware during 2021 were Team Bath Netball who lifted the British Fast5 All-Stars trophy for the first time in October. The Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold also reached a first Vitality Superleague final since 2013 during a brilliant season which saw them win 18 of their 22 matches, and are determined to go one better than silver during a 2022 campaign which sees home matches return to the Team Bath Arena – click here to buy tickets.
Layla Guscoth, Imogen Allison, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Serena Guthrie (pictured right) helped England Netball record a historic series victory in New Zealand and are in the Roses squad for January’s Quad Series which begins a huge year of netball culminating in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Dozens of Team Bath-based sportspeople are in contention to compete on home soil at the Games when they take place in the West Midlands next summer, including Team Bath judoka who finished a 2021 that saw Prisca Awiti-Alcaraz, Ben Fletcher and Megan Fletcher all qualify for Tokyo by winning a total of five national titles at December’s British and Cypriot Championships.
Before the Commonwealth Games there is another Olympics to enjoy – the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, taking place in February, where the University-based British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association will be hoping to continue an extraordinary run of success having won medals at every Games since 2002.
Thank you to all of our customers, students, staff, athletes and coaches for making 2021 a year in which, despite the ongoing challenges and uncertainty, there was so much to celebrate and lift the spirits. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2022!