Made in Sheffield: Congratulations to our medal-winning alumni!
Congratulations to Sheffield alumni Hollie Webb, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Bryony Page and Nick Beighton who came home with a gold, two silvers and a bronze medal respectively from the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Hollie, Jessica and Bryony all have close links to the University’s Elite Sports Performance Scheme (ESPS) which was launched in 2009 to provide financial and non-financial support to talented student athletes at the University.
Hollie (BA Economics 2013) scored the winning goal in a dramatic penalty shootout which saw Great Britain’s women win their first ever Olympic hockey gold medal, beating defending champions the Netherlands in what was one of the most spectacular moments of the Games.
Hollie, 26, who won silver with the England women’s hockey team at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and followed this up with gold at the 2015 EuroHockey Championships, was supported by the ESPS throughout her time at University and said:
“It made a huge difference. This was one of the reasons that I chose the University of Sheffield in the first place. It came across as a university that supported its student athletes. The scheme enabled me to focus on both my academic studies and my sport. Without the scheme my sport or my degree would have suffered. The scheme offered me the support to succeed in both areas.”
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.
Earlier 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 as her previous best global placing had been fourth 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.”
Reigning World heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill (BSc Psychology 2007, Hon LittD 2010) claimed silver in her fight to defend the Olympic title she won on ‘Super Saturday’ at London 2012.
After overcoming the heartbreak of missing the Beijing 2008 Olympics due to injury, Jessica’s medal haul began when she won gold at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, before winning gold again at the European Championships in Barcelona and scooping silver in Daegu in 2011. She took time out to have her son Reggie in 2014 but was back at the top in 2015 – winning gold at the World Championships. She has worked with fellow Sheffield alumnus and long-time coach Toni Minichiello (LLB Law 1996, Hon LittD 2013) since she was a young athlete.
Jessica received an honorary degree from the University of Sheffield in January 2010 and was patron of the ESPS, 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.
In the Paralympics, Nick Beighton (BSc Environmental Science 2004) won bronze in the men's KL2 Canoe sprint. Nick was in the Officer Training Corps at Sheffield and lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.
Joining Nick in Rio for the Paralympics, David Wetherill (BSc Biological Chemistry 2012) – also an ESPS recipient while at University – reached the final eight in the table tennis class 6 competition.
Miles Stevenson, Director of Alumni and Donor Relations at the University of Sheffield, said:
“Huge congratulations to all our medal-winning alumni! Their outstanding achievements are the result of years of hard work and dedication and we are extremely proud that their success has been in some part made in Sheffield.
“We are also proud that the University’s Elite Sports Performance Scheme, which started seven years ago, has helped lead to Olympic and Paralympic medalists. They are an inspiration to current students on the ESPS and their sporting legacy is something everyone in Sheffield is very proud of.”
If you would like information on donating towards the ESPS please contact David Meadows at firstname.lastname@example.org, or for general information about the scheme contact Simon Vardy at email@example.com
For more information about how we support elite athletes please visit the ESPS web pages