Sheffield’s Olympic medal-winning alumnae 

Sheffield graduates Hollie Webb, Bryony Page and Jess Ennis-Hill took home gold and silver medals in the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Hollie Webb (Image courtesy of GB Hockey)Economics alumna Hollie Webb (BA Economics 2013), scored the winning penalty for the Great Britain Women's Hockey team in the final against the Netherlands. The team went undefeated through the Olympic competition and managed to come from behind to bring the scores level by full time, taking the game to penalties.

During her studies Hollie was a recipient of the University’s Elite Sports Performance Scheme (ESPS). The scheme was launched in 2009 to provide financial, academic and personal support to talented student athletes at the University.

Thanks to donations from the Alumni Fund and other donors, the ESPS is able to offer a number of athletes a scholarship of up to £1,000, which they can use to help fund their training and competitions. This allows many students the chance to take part in training camps and events that they previously wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend.

Speaking in 2012, when she was awarded the scholarship to help provide support for her training, she said:

"Without the scholarship I wouldn’t be able to play at the level I am and do well at University, so it’s helping me to reach my goals. Before coming to University I had a part time job to pay for transport so I could get to training. Now I’m at University I wouldn’t really have been able to work, so something would have had to give. The scholarship was one of the reasons I chose to come to the University as there are not many others that would offer something like this."

Bryony PageEarlier in the Games, Bryony Page (BSc Biology 2015), winner of the 2014 Chancellor's Medal and another ESPS recipient, took silver for trampolining.

Bryony, the first British trampolinist ever to qualify for an Olympic final, was overjoyed by the medal win - her previous best global ranking had been fourth place at the 2010 World Championships.

Bryony studied Biology at the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, and described the support she received from the department to balance her intensive training and academic studies as vital to her success.

Speaking in 2014 as she was awarded the University's Chancellor's Medal Bryony said:

"I have to give an incredible amount of credit to the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences for their support and flexibility in understanding my goals to achieve academic excellence while maintaining my dream to be an elite athlete and competing for my country.

"My department helped me arrange my timetable so I could fit both study and training, allowing me to concentrate on trampolining near major competitions and alternatively focusing on exams and coursework deadlines when my training schedule allows."

Jessica Ennis-HillUniversity of Sheffield alumna and current World heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill (BSc Psychology 2007, Hon LittD 2010) claimed silver in the fight to defend her Olympic title she won at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Psychology graduate Jessica gained 6,775 points but narrowly missed out on gold due to a challenge from Belgian athlete Nafissatou Thiam, who achieved 6,810.

Jessica has worked with fellow Sheffield alumnus and long-time coach Toni Minichiello (LLB Law 1996, Hon LittD 2013), to become one of the best athletes in the world.

It was at the London 2012 Olympics that she won gold on what became known as ‘Super Saturday’ following two other golds for Team GB on the same day.

After overcoming the heartbreak of missing the Beijing 2008 Olympics due to injury, her medal haul began a year later when she won the gold medal at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, before winning gold again at the European Championships in Barcelona and scooping silver in Daegu in 2011.

Jessica took time out to have her son Reggie in 2014 but was back at the top in 2015 - winning gold at the World Championships.

Miles Stevenson, Director of Alumni and Donor Relations at the University of Sheffield, said:

"Jessica Ennis-Hill's achievements in the sporting arena are outstanding and the result of extreme dedication and hard work. She is an inspiration and we at the University, together with everyone in Sheffield, are immensely proud of her.”

Jessica received an honorary degree from the University of Sheffield in January 2010 and was patron of the University's Elite Sports Performance Scheme, a position which has also been held by BBC Breakfast and Football Focus presenter Dan Walker (BA History, 1998, MA Journalism Studies, 1999). Dan was also on hand in Rio as the face of BBC Four’s coverage of the Games which attracted a cult following.

We are proud of all our alumni competing at the Olympics and congratulate them on their efforts and achievements representing their country as Olympians.

The Olympics took place in Brazil for the first time, a country that the University has strong connections with. In addition to our alumni Olympians, we have 265 alumni based in Brazil, including new Alumni Board member Guilherme Guimaraes, who was the Sponsorship Manager for the Rio 2016 bid committee and was Head of Sports for Twitter in Brazil during the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, before starting his own sports marketing consultancy.

Supporting our elite athletes

The ESPS is made possible thanks to generous donations from alumni and friends of the University, as well as local businesses. The scheme makes a huge difference to the lives of our students who want to compete at the highest level whilst maintaining their academic attainment. We are extremely grateful and proud that the scheme, which started seven years ago, has helped lead to Olympic Gold and Silver medalists.

If you would like information on donating towards the ESPS please contact David Meadows d.meadows@sheffield.ac.uk, or for general information about the scheme contact Simon Vardy simon.vardy@sheffield.ac.uk.

Road to Tokyo

Earlier this year the University also saw success for students and recent alumni European University Games in both karate and climbing, four of whom are part of the ESPS.

Lisa Brocklesby (Dentistry) and Panayitios Loizides (Mechanical Engineering) were entered into the karate, with Lisa finishing fifth overall. Five students were also entered into the climbing with a bronze medal for Jen Wood (BioChemistry), and sixth and seventh places for Connor Byrne (Aerospace Engineering) and Luke Dawson (Physics) respectively.

With climbing entering the Olympics at Tokyo 2020 we hope that some of these names may be featured competing for team GB.

For more information about how we support elite athletes please visit the ESPS website.

Take a look here to read about Paralympian David Wetherill's competition in the Table Tennis.

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