Under the five bright spheres of the Olympic rings, sport came to life this summer. For two weeks, the greatest show on earth delivered passion, sportsmanship, teamwork, excellence and resilience, and we are incredibly proud of the over 100 BUCS athletes and alumni who took part.
The success of these athletes culminated in a total of 53 medals, including 14 gold medals - making BUCS 7th on the medal table - an unbelievable achievement from everyone involved.
History was made on more than one occasion by BUCS stars. Two-time BUCS shotput champion and Leeds Beckett alumni Emily Campbell secured Team GB’s first ever female weightlifting medal after claiming silver in the women’s 87kg+ category. She will be remembered not just for her medal success on zero lottery funding, but for her important ‘This Girl Can’ message to persuade women of any shape and size to be an athlete.
It was Team GB’s most successful ever Olympics for swimming with important contributions from our own medallists in the Speedo and BUCS Championships over the years. Brilliant performances from the likes of University of Stirling alumni Duncan Scott and Kathleen Dawson, Loughborough University students Luke Greenbank and James Wilby, and Tom Dean and Anna Hopkins from the University of Bath, meant Team GB took home eight medals in the pool.
Holly Bradshaw, 2020 BUCS champion and current Loughborough student also made history with Britain’s first ever pole vault Olympic medal after winning a bronze medal in her third Olympic games. There was also the golden double from University of Bath athletes Joe Choong and Kate French who won gold in the modern pentathlon events – making Team GB the first country to win both the men and women’s event in a single Olympic games.
BUCS Award winners and nominees also shone at the games with 2x Sportsman of the year and University of Stirling alumni Duncan Scott becoming the first Team GB athlete ever to win four medals at a single Olympics. There was domination from BUCS Sportswoman of the Year winners Anna Hopkin (2016, University of Bath), who took home a gold medal alongside a new world record in the swimming mixed relay event, and Lily Owlsey (2016) from the University of Birmingham who helped her team win bronze in the women’s hockey - with several crucial goals throughout the tournament. 2012 Sportsman of the Year and University of Leeds alumni Jonny Brownlee also secured his first gold medal in the first ever triathlon mixed relay event.
As always, the games were filled with inspirational stories of resilience and athletes overcoming adversity. Back on just day two of the Games we saw an incredible ‘underdog’ moment when Anna Kiesenhofer, BUCS and University of Cambridge alumni, grabbed the gold medal in the women’s road race event for Austria. What most people don’t know is that Anna was ranked 217th in the world going into the games and didn’t appear on a single list of pre-race contenders, making her the ultimate underdog. Not only that, but Anna went to Tokyo without a professional contract and instead single-handedly created her own training plan using her educational background and postdoctoral research.
Another incredible story of overcoming adversity came from previous BUCS cross-country champion and Leeds Beckett alumni Alex Yee, who came back from a horrific bike crash back in 2017 at the ITU Triathlon World Cup, to win a gold and silver medal in the triathlon. Over in the pool, Loughborough University’s Alice Dearing broke down many barriers when she became Team GB’s first swimmer of black heritage.
It wasn’t just individual success to celebrate; many universities celebrated an impressive medal count from their current students and alumni. BUCS athletes from the University of Bath won five medals over in Tokyo, and every single one of them was gold. Loughborough had an impressive total of 12 medals, helped by their domination in Team GB women’s hockey team and presence on the BUCS and ICG Women’s Hockey Programme. Leeds Beckett also impressed as they bagged two gold medals in the triathlon events which contributed to their medal count of six.
Vince Mayne, BUCS CEO, is full of praise for the athletes’ success; “The Olympic Games, and the sheer success of Team GB, evidences the clear performance pathway that university sport provides. If you look at the sports of swimming, hockey, rowing and athletics in particular, the volume of athletes rising through BUCS and onto the international stage – let alone winning 53 medals – is nothing short of incredible.
We must also mention the impressive contribution and hard work that is done behind the scenes by university staff and coaches to train and prepare Olympians – you have played such a key role in the huge success of the athletes. Additionally, the investment by universities in high-quality facilities which not only service the student athletes, but provide many training bases for Team GB athletes, has played a key role in enabling Team GB athletes to be as well prepared for the Games as possible.
At BUCS, we are very proud of everyone who competed, coached and volunteered in Tokyo; I am sure that the 2020 class of #BUCSTakesOnTokyo has left a legacy that will stand for years to come.
We now look forward to the Paralympics to see the incredible results Team GB will produce and again reflect on the key role universities, TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) and BUCS play in enabling athletes to perform and shine bright on the world stage.”