There is a support team at Loughborough that sits unseen beneath the surface, with very few people aware of its existence or importance. Quite rightly, the focus is on the athletes and coaches, but the support that has propelled them to Tokyo has been immense.
All aspects of sports science, research, innovation projects, and coaching have enabled them to realise their Olympic dreams. Heat chambers have been part of physically and mentally preparing them for unprecedented conditions, not to mention the unexpected and constantly changing restrictions thrown up by managing the CV19 restrictions. As we enjoy so many special Olympic moments, let us spare a thought for the teams behind the team that have broken so many unseen records.
Medals are always accompanied by moments that reflect the journey, history and context, long and short term, and it is these that we harvest to inspire and teach the next generation. Some of these moments are created by the euphoria of success, built on overcoming intense pressure, and long-term dedication and commitment. There are, of course, other sporting moments that are created from failing to achieve what was expected or desired, and result in the agony of defeat.
What defines each category is largely personal to an athlete or coach, although very public in its nature. Either way, we have already seen how the power of these moments can re-energise the country and inject a feel-good factor after a torrid 18 months for everyone.
We have had many moments in the pool where performances have been nothing short of astounding, with Adam Peaty, Luke Greenbank, and Anna Hopkin all ensuring that Team GB finished with its highest ever swimming medal haul. Alumnus James Wilby also played his part, helping the men’s 4x100m medley team reach the final, on the way to a historic silver.
We should be extremely proud of our multi-national University programme as nine of its athletes become Olympians in Tokyo. Andi Manley’s team have done an incredible job in coaching world-class Olympians, and it was excellent to see Daniel Wiffen break national records, whilst Felix Auböck became the first-ever male swimmer in Olympic Games history to qualify for the finals in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m events.
We have had many current students in action – Helena Rowland (rugby 7’s), Izzy Petter (women’s hockey), Ellie Rayer (women’s hockey), Emily Borthwick (athletics), Chris O’Donnell (athletics) Abbie Wood (swimming), and they are examples of the breadth and quality of our programmes.
As we now turn our attention to the athletics events, with so many of our athletes competing in the Olympic Stadium, we hope to see yet more medals and moments from the Loughborough family.
John Steele, Executive Director of Sport, Loughborough University.