‘The Olympics for Students’: A Review of the BUCS Gatorade National Finals
Setting off bright and early in the morning, impatiently awaiting our arrival at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, I sat on the train journey enthusiastic about the weekend ahead. Later, upon entering the Athletics stadium for the first time, something kicked in which I find difficult to describe. Being an enthusiast for live sporting action, I have always felt that there is something stimulating about catching the first glimpse of an arena – a feeling that sends a chill down the back of the spine.
The stage was set for a unique display. There is definitely something special about the combined fun of participating, the pride in representing one’s university and the seriousness of competition. The combination of these factors attracted around 5,800 students from 130 universities across Britain, all present to compete in eleven different sports at the Gatorade Nationals.
Talking to some of the University of Birmingham’s sports teams ahead of the event, they remarked regularly on the tremendous buzz of excitement and the rush of adrenaline they gained from just being involved. Trampoline stars Rebecca Blacklock and Helena Boryslawskyj praised the team spirit, unity and camaraderie within the Birmingham Gymnastics and Trampolining squad. Similarly, women’s distance runners Laura Riches and Melissa Hawtin spoke of their eagerness to participate in the indoor finals, despite being more accustomed to cross-country running.
Whether they had suffered personal disappointment or had successful individual tournaments, the team emphasis was rooted in many of the athletes’ post-race thoughts. They thanked the teammates who had diligently cheered them on whilst managing the nerves of competing themselves.It is therefore unsurprising that BUCS tournaments like these have a great history of being a foreground for superbly talented athletes to promote themselves, achieving eye-catching feats before going onto senior levels in their respective disciplines.
The tournament provided a great stage for high jump winner Isobel Pooley, currently one of Britain’s best regular high jumpers and a student at Nottingham University. Pooley reached a height of 1.87m, 9cm off Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s new British women’s indoor record, set earlier in February 2014. Those involved in University sport will also remember the name of Birmingham graduate Hannah England who went on to achieve an exceptional silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea in 2011.
Looking at this particular occasion from a University of Birmingham perspective, the teams were able to achieve fifteen medals across eleven sports. In Athletics, among the most enjoyable highlights were Nick Cruchley’s fifth BUCS title in the men’s Pole Vault – even if he did miss out on the crowning glory of setting a new Championship record at the height of 5.50m – and Caoimhe King’s Triple Jump triumph on Sunday morning. Action on the track also produced some spectacular racing, not least the men’s 4×200 relay final in which the Birmingham quartet of Seb Tully-Middleton, Alex Lee, Jamie Vickery and Harry Ashman held their nerve as others fell around them to come away with a silver medal. Meanwhile, bronze medals coming in quick succession for Laura Riches (women’s 3000m) Ben Waterman (men’s 800m) and Sarah McDonald (women’s 1500m) were also thoroughly deserved, and all three reflected that they might have done even better.
But a team of eight BurnFM Sport reporters were busy covering the weekend and celebrated the successes of some of the lesser followed sports as well. The Judo squad were magnificent in achieving their first title at a BUCS event, along with Charlotte Reid performing successfully to take gold in the women’s 50m backstroke. In Badminton, the team of Doug Furze and Hannah Sharman formed a terrific partnership that inspired them towards a bronze medal in the mixed doubles competition.
Needless to say there were a few other impressive incidents along the way too – in my eagerness to climb through the stands to get an interview, I managed to completely rip my trousers, making a noise so loud that fifty curious people turned around to see what the commotion was all about. Justice was later done however, when my fellow BurnFM Sport colleague tried to deprive me of victory in our personal 200m race by cutting through the middle of the track. Some say it was a moral victory, but by this point the stewards had left the building.
Either way, the lesson for us all is that there is a reason why some of us compete and others commentate. Continuously dubbed the ‘Olympics for students’, one hopes that some of the competitors on display at the BUCS Gatorade Nationals will go onto have great futures, and one day I’ll be glad to say I saw them compete.