Girl power on show among new intake of sports scholars
Some of the UK’s most talented female athletes will be competing in University of East London (UEL) colours this year after being inducted as sports scholars during a ceremony at UEL SportsDock on Wednesday, 30 September.
A total of 86 sports scholars were welcomed to UEL by Vice-Chancellor Professor John Joughin – including GB sprint stars Bianca Williams and Shannon Hylton (pictured left), England U19 footballer Lilli Maple (centre) and international swimmer Aimee Willmott (right).
Aimee, a double Commonwealth and double European medallist, is returning to UEL for her second year of study after being crowned 2015 Sportswoman of the Year by British Universities and College Sport (BUCS). She won five BUCS gold medals in the pool last year.
Bianca, another double Commonwealth medallist and ranked No 2 in the UK in 2015, is also back for her final undergraduate year but, on the track, will face stiff competition in her specialist 200 metres event from within her own UEL team.
Shannon, a new arrival at UEL, is ranked No 5 in the UK at 200m and is considered one of the country’s brightest prospects on the track. A silver medallist at this year’s European Junior Championship, she is the equal fourth fastest British junior of all time.
Lilli, another newcomer to the University, is also highly rated on the football field, and her performances in the Millwall Lionesses midfield have already earned her an international call-up for her age group. She is the first female footballer to join UEL’s prestigious Sports Scholarship programme.
Her fellow sports scholars will be competing for UEL this year across a range of 16 sports, including basketball, volleyball, tennis, boxing and rowing. For the first time, the University welcomes scholars in fencing and hockey.
All of them will be hoping to continue UEL’s remarkable improvement on the sports field in recent years, having climbed an unprecedented 77 places in the overall BUCS table since 2009.
Last year was UEL’s most successful sports campaign on record. Students won a total of 21 BUCS medals, the men’s basketball team were undefeated winners of the BUCS Premier South league, the women’s volleyball team won the BUCS Trophy and the men’s volleyball team finished runners-up in the BUCS Premier South.
There were also promotions for UEL teams in women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s football, women’s hockey and men’s cricket.
At international level, GB sprinter Adam Gemili, who graduated in the summer, won the 200m gold at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich and became the first British sprinter in history to run the 200m in under 20 seconds and the 100m in under 10 seconds.
Professor Joughin said: “The rise and rise of UELSports and teamUEL has just been phenomenal. We were 47th overall last year and the target is to do even better this year, and I’m sure we will – especially with so many talented sports scholars leading the UEL charge.
“It is heartening to see the University’s improvement. We are fast becoming one of the leading universities for sport in London and beyond.”
David Cosford, UEL’s Director of Sport, said: “This year’s Sport Scholarship cohort demonstrates UEL’s continuing commitment to elite sport and reflects the diversity and breadth of sporting talent the University of East London attracts.
“These are some of the most talented young athletes in the country and we have a fantastic track record of supporting them on their journey through higher education.
“UEL has a proud record supporting elite female sport and it is particularly pleasing to see athletes such as Aimee Willmott and Bianca Williams following in the footsteps of UEL alumna Gemma Gibbons and UEL honorary doctor Christine Ohuruogu.”
For Aimee, one of the biggest attractions of studying at UEL is being able to train every day in the Olympic pool in Stratford, where she competed at the London 2012 Games.
She said: “The Sports Scholarship programme is very important to me. It’s great being part of a large team. My own training group is quite small so it’s nice to come to a university and be part of a wider group.”
As well as competing for UEL, Aimee is focused on making the GB team for the Rio Olympics next summer.
“This season is going really well already,” she said. “I’ve been in the pool for five or six weeks and it’s only just the beginning of October.
“It’s really exciting to get some hard work in the bag before Christmas. If everything goes well, fingers crossed I’ll be ready for the trials in April.”
Shannon is also aiming for selection for Rio and is looking to take advantage of the University’s world-class strength and conditioning facilities to get herself into the best physical shape.
She revealed that her decision to enrol at UEL was partly influenced by a recommendation from Adam Gemili.
“Adam came down to my athletics club to give a presentation and he said that the University of East London was really good for sport as well as the academic side of things,” she said. “I chose the university because it’s very good for my course and I know it has really good sporting facilities.”