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Sports: staying active, motivated, and connected

The Olympic successes of our students and alumni, and how we're leading in areas of sports science research. Part of the Annual Report and Accounts 2020/21.

Olympic Gold Rush

They may have been delayed until 2021 but the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were truly worth the wait as sportspeople who train or studied at the University of Bath brought home an incredible 21 medals – 11 of them gold.

Mechanical Engineering student Tom Dean’s magnificent swim in an unforgettable men’s 200m freestyle final sparked an Olympic gold rush for members of the British Swimming National Centre Bath elite training squad, based at the University.

Dean also won gold in the men’s 4×200m freestyle relay along with James Guy, Matt Richards and Sports Performance graduate Calum Jarvis. Guy added another gold in the mixed 4×100m medley relay, with Sport & Exercise Science graduate Anna Hopkin anchoring the British quartet to victory in world record time, and bagged his third medal with silver in the men’s medley relay. Freya Anderson brought home mixed medley relay gold after her excellent swim in the heats.

University graduates and Pentathlon GB duo Kate French and Joe Choong both took pentathlon gold within 24 hours of each other, setting new Olympic records in the process.

In the Paralympic Games, three members of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) World-Class Wheelchair Fencing Programme, based at the University, brought home nine medals between them.

Piers Gilliver was crowned Paralympic Champion in the Category A epee and also teamed up with training partners Dimitri Coutya and Oliver Lam-Watson to win silver in the team foil and bronze in the team epee. Coutya claimed individual bronze medals in the Category B epee and foil. Maths & Physics graduate Stuart Wood brought home bronze from his first Paralympic Games in the inaugural VL3 paracanoeing competition.

Access to world-class facilities

Success in Tokyo was made possible, in part, thanks to the fantastic efforts of so many people based in our Sports Training Village. Over the tumultuous year we sought to maintain access to our facilities to enable our elite athletes to continue training.

This helped reap multiple additional successes: Team Bath Netball reached their first Grand Final for eight years having won 17 of their 20 Superleague matches; six students made Premiership Rugby debuts, including Jack Kenningham who helped Harlequins win the title; and rower Imy Bantick conquered the world from her kitchen when she took gold at the 2021 World Rowing Indoor Championships at an event staged virtually.

In recognition of our world-class support and facilities and the efforts of all those behind the Team Bath Tennis student programme, Bath was named Lawn Tennis Association University of the Year.

Sporting opportunities for all

To ensure the whole University community stayed active, motivated, and connected throughout a challenging year, an extensive programme of online activities was established to support isolating students and staff during COVID-19 lockdowns. The Team Bath trainers went above and beyond, filming and leading sessions from their own homes and gardens to support our community.

Leading sports science research

From the Department for Health, innovative work pioneered by Dr Sean Cumming in developing protocols for biobanding - a technique to identify hidden talent and reduce injury risk by selecting individuals based on their physical rather than chronological maturity - has attracted wide interest from sports teams and governing bodies around the world.

Collaboration with Bath Rugby, England Cricket and even the Royal Academy of Dance is helping to ensure this work impacts training regimes, and a number of Bath PhD students are now applying this research with Premier League football clubs, including Southampton and Manchester United.