Igniting the Olympic spirit at Universities Week

Sporting stars from the University are gearing up for the most important performance of their lives as the Olympic countdown continues.

In just 88 days (as of Monday 30 April) students and graduates from the University will be flying the flag for Great Britain as they go for gold against other elite athletes from across the world.

To mark the third annual Universities Week (Monday 30 April – Monday 7 May 2012) the University of Sheffield is celebrating the diverse way the institution has engaged with the Olympic and Paralympic Games – from sports training and ground breaking medical research to the development of volunteering projects which will support the London 2012 spectacle.

World Champion heptathlete and University of Sheffield graduate, Jessica Ennis MBE, is one of Team GB's most hotly tipped Olympic contenders for the London 2012 games. The 25-year-old gained a Psychology degree in 2007 before receiving an honorary degree from the University in 2010.

Medal hopeful Jessica said: "This year's Universities Week is a fantastic way of celebrating higher education and the impact it has had on the sporting industry, whether through innovative sports research or by offering support to young athletes juggling their academic studies with their training.

"In the run up to the 2012 Olympics, I'm thrilled to support such a worthy campaign and wish the University of Sheffield the very best for the Week."

Fellow Sheffield graduate Nichola Osborne, 27, is also hoping to earn a place on the podium with the Women's Volleyball Team. Nichola graduated from the University of Sheffield's School of Medicine in 2011 as a fully qualified doctor. She received a scholarship from the University's Elite Sport Performance Scheme (ESPS) to help her achieve sporting and academic excellence as she combined her final year of study with full time training.

"Thank you to everyone in Sheffield who contributed to my scholarship of 2010-2011," said Nichola.

"It was a tough, but successful year and the support I received from Sheffield both financially and in services was a significant help. Mentally, it has been a great help to know that the University as a whole has supported my wishes to combine final year medicine with an intense sporting commitment. It has been invaluable to know that further help was always available."

Other Olympic hopefuls and graduates of the University of Sheffield include: Zara Dampney, Team GB member of the Olympics beach volleyball team, Table tennis champion David Wetherill and world-class trampolinist Bryony Page.

Alison Muir, Alumni Relations Manager at the University of Sheffield, said: "The University is very proud of all of its alumni that are representing their country at the Olympics later this year. The London Olympic Games are going to be a fantastic event for the whole country and we are so pleased that members of the University community around the world are taking part.

"It really does highlight the diverse ways in which the University of Sheffield is engaging with both the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

Universities week will be celebrated across the country with the aim of increasing public awareness of the wide role of the UK's universities.

The campaign is being coordinated by Universities UK and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS).

Notes for Editors: With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK's leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.

The University's research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

For more information about the University's Elite Sport Performance Scheme visit ESPS

For more information about Universities Week 2012 visit Universities Week

For further information please contact: Amy Pullan, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2229859 or email a.l.pullan@sheffield.ac.uk