The week that was and UELSports Athletics Taster Days

What a week it’s been for UELSports already – and it’s only Wednesday morning!  Saturday saw a successful Campus Sport Cricket Tournament at NewVIc, and Szandra Szogedi kept her Olympic Judo qualification dream alive with a 5th place finish at the Dusseldorf World Cup.  Then on Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing our men’s quadruple sculls crew receive their gold medals at the BUCS 4s and 8s Head in Peterborough.   The highlight for me however has being the athletics taster days that we have ran over the past two days, and the way in which UELSports worked as a team to bring one of our focus sports to the wider UEL student population.  More about that later.

At the rowing on Sunday the crew of Tom Wilkinson, David Bell, John Collins and Alan Sinclair had to start at the back of the field, as despite them all being GB international rowers, UEL had not previously competed in this event, and as such were unseeded.  Head racing is longer than regatta racing (usually more than twice the normally 2,000m distance), and sees crews let off at regular time periods making it more of a time trail than a race.  The disadvantage of starting at the back is that it is more difficult to row through the choppy water trailing the crews ahead, and requires extra skill and courage to pass other crews on often narrow stretches of water.  UEL passed five of the boats ahead of them on Sunday, at one point overtaking two at the same time, to finish 15 seconds clear of Loughborough.  Sunday’s win brings to six the BUCS medal total for UEL so far this academic year.  With the athletics team competing at the BUCS Indoor Championships in Sheffield this weekend, and our Judo stars taking to the stage in March, last year’s total of eight medals could be surpassed before we event reach the summer season.

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Szandra is just one of three UEL sports scholars aiming for Olympic Qualification.  While UELSports blogger Sophie Cox and Gemma Gibbons still in the running for British Qualification, Szandra will travel to the African Championships in April hoping to gain one of the continental quota slots and a place on the Ghanaian team for the Games.

While we are hopeful of cheering on the girls in Excel in July (I managed to secure myself a ticket for the -52kg and -57kg categories last week), UEL students (and indeed students from across the UK) will have the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Stadium long before then.  The BUCS Track and Field Championships will serve as the main test event in the Olympic Stadium, and UEL are looking for their strongest representation to date at these Championships.  While scholarship students Zara Hohn, Andre Fernandez and Lumar Sylvester will form the backbone of the team, UEL are looking to open the opportunity beyond our seasoned national and international athletes.  The quest build the team started in ernest this week, and in collaboration with our Sport England try-a-sport project we set out to identify some talent on both our Stratford and Dockland campuses.

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Despite the limited outdoor space at our disposal we managed to lay a 40 portable track, set up a shot put circle and give students the opportunity to test their strength in the sanding long jump.  Andre and Lumar were on hand to give some advice and encourage those with speed, strength and power.  High Jumper Samson Oni, who yesterday was named in the British team for the World Indoor Championships, even made a guest appearance on Monday.  Samson is a Greenhouse athletics coach at Sarah Bonnell School, just across the road, and six of the pupils that he coaches also took part in the event.  The event was also supported by Coral Nourrice, the Run! Athletics Activator for Newham.

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Coral, who also coaches at local club Newham and Essex Beagles, will now help us to provide suitable coaching for talented athletes that were identified from the event, and anyone that wants to get involved with athletics at any level.  If you are interested in being involved in athletics at UEL, please be sure to contact us.

The BUCS Championships will be held in the Olympic Stadium from 4th to 7th May.

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