Six World Champions crowned, hundreds of athletes hosted and student success – another stellar year of sport at University of Bath

20 December 2023

With the dawn of a new Olympic and Paralympic year upon us, University of Bath-based sportspeople will be looking to build on the outstanding global success they enjoyed during a memorable 2023.

Six athletes were crowned as World Champions – Joe Choong (modern pentathlon); Matt Weston (skeleton); Tom Dean, James Guy and Suzanna Hext (swimming); and Piers Gilliver (wheelchair fencing) – while others secured historic podium placings and continental crowns.

In total a stunning 74 medals were won on the senior international stage by athletes based at the University, which recently became one of just eight UK Sport-accredited Elite Training Centres in the country in recognition of its role in helping Olympic and Paralympic athletes achieve their full performance potential.

Joe Choong (second from left) gave the home fans plenty to cheer at August’s UIPM Modern Pentathlon World Championships at the STV

It wasn’t just elite performers who shone, though, with student-athletes also enjoying an excellent year while representing both the Blue & Gold and their countries.

The highlight of an unforgettable 12 months came in August as the University welcomed a record-breaking field of more than 800 athletes from 50 countries – ranging from under-9s through to over-70s – to the 2023 UIPM Pentathlon and Laser-Run World Championships.

(From left) Jess Varley, Kerenza Bryson and Olivia Green won women’s team silver at the 2023 UIPM Pentathlon World Championships

The Team Bath Sports Training Village was transformed for 10 days of world-class competition and the home fans were given plenty to cheer on finals day when Pentathlon GB’s Choong retained his men’s title in magnificent style.

He also won men’s team silver with Myles Pillage and Sports Management & Coaching student Charlie Brown, an achievement matched in the women’s event by Olivia Green, Jess Varley and Kerenza Bryson. The latter bagged a brilliant individual bronze medal too, securing an Olympic quota place for GB to add to the one earned by Green when she won bronze at July’s European Games in Poland.

The Tokyo Olympic winning 4x200m freestyle team of (from left) James Guy, Matt Richards, Tom Dean and Duncan Scott reunited to take World Championships gold in Fukuoka

Choong – who also claimed World Cup Final and European silver in 2023 – is determined to defend his Olympic title next summer, as is swimmer Dean who won 4x200m freestyle relay gold, 200m freestyle silver and 200m individual medley bronze at this year’s FINA World Aquatics Championships in Japan. He was joined in the triumphant relay quartet by then British Swimming Performance Centre Bath training partner Guy.

July’s event also saw Kate Shortman, a Bill Whiteley Sporting Scholar at the University, make history by winning Britain’s first-ever Artistic Swimming World Championship medal – a stunning Women’s Solo Free bronze.

Suzanna Hext roars with delight after winning gold at the Manchester 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships. CREDIT: Sam Mellish

The following month’s Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester saw Hext, who does her strength and conditioning training at the STV, surge to S5 50m freestyle gold before adding 100m freestyle silver.

Piers Gilliver and Dimitri Coutya won epee gold and silver respectively at the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships

She will be looking for more medals at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, as will wheelchair fencer Gilliver who successfully defended his Category A epee title at October’s World Championships in Italy. He also won sabre silver, while training partner Dimitri Coutya claimed Category B epee silver and foil bronze.

Skeleton World Champion Matt Weston with Professor Ian White, University of Bath Vice Chancellor, at a reception celebrating a historic year for the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association

British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association athletes are at the start of their 2026 Olympic cycle and got off to an incredible start as Weston was crowned World and European Champion in men’s skeleton. He also won World mixed team silver with Laura Deas, just ahead of compatriots Brogan Crowley and Craig Thompson who took bronze.

It was a historic season for the bobsleigh crew of Brad Hall, Arran Gulliver, Taylor Lawrence and Greg Cackett too as they claimed Britain’s first-ever four-man European crown before winning a first World Championships medal since 1939 with a superb silver in St Moritz.

Team Bath Netball's Jayda Pechova helped England beat South Africa in the Vitality Netball International Series played in December 2023. MUST CREDIT: Morgan Harlow.
Jayda Pechova in action for the Vitality Roses against South Africa. PICTURES: Morgan Harlow.

Other notable international achievements included two European Short Course Swimming titles for Freya Anderson, plus a first international individual medal for Jacob Peters as Bath swimmers helped Britain top the continental medal table for a first time; and a European Games men’s team title for Brown, Choong and Pillage in modern pentathlon.

University of Bath alumna Imogen Allison, then a Team Bath Super League player, helped a Vitality Roses squad led by former Blue & Gold player and coach Jess Thirlby to a first-ever Netball World Cup final in South Africa.

Current student and Team Bath star Jayda Pechova, supported by a Trendell Sporting Scholarship, made her senior England debut in September and was a key part of the Roses team that won bronze at the FAST5 Netball World Series in New Zealand. She also helped Team Bath Netball finish runners-up in the British Fast5 All-Stars Championships in June and the University’s 1st team reach the BUCS National Championship final.

The University of Bath Tennis Club enjoyed an outstanding season of BUCS competition

That latter final was one of seven to feature University of Bath student teams on BUCS Big Wednesday 2023, with the tennis ladies’ 1sts and men’s 2nds, sponsored by Bath Building Society, providing the highlights as they both completed unbeaten league and cup doubles. Silver medals went to the tennis men’s 1sts, netball 1sts and 2nds, badminton men’s 1sts and women’s hockey 1sts at the end of an excellent season for The SU sports clubs.

Other students to enjoy individual success during the year included Santander Sporting Scholar Aleeya Sibbons, who was named on the British Athletics Podium Potential List after a season where she made her senior international debut and anchored GB to 4x100m relay gold at the European U23 Championships; Josh Gammon, who won 200m butterfly gold at the British Swimming Championships; and Austin Emens, who made his GB Rugby 7s debut in Dubai earlier this month.

The Business student was also in the starting XV when the University men’s 1st XV won the annual BUCS Super Rugby Anniversary Game in front of 6,000 spectators at The Rec in October, another highlight of the student sporting calendar.

Focus now turns to 2024 and what promises to be another incredible year of sport. Good luck to all the University of Bath-based athletes, students and graduates bidding to qualify for the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games – we are behind you all the way!

Thank you to everyone in the Team Bath community for making 2023 another unforgettable year. We wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2024.

Partners and Suppliers