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UEL Road to Rio: Aimee Willmott can be the first UEL student to qualify for Rio

UEL students

Swimming star has the chance to secure her Olympic place when she competes at the British Championships in Glasgow

Aimee Willmott has the chance to become the first University of East London (UEL) student to qualify for the Rio Olympics when she competes at the British Swimming Championships and Olympic Trials in Glasgow from April 12-17.

After making her Olympic debut at the London 2012 Games, Willmott will be going head to head with her British rivals for the honour of representing Team GB at a second Olympics.

The 23-year-old will look to qualify in her strongest event, the 400 metres individual medley, and will also be hoping to feature in both the 200m individual medley and 200m butterfly.

However, the double Commonwealth silver medallist has set her sights far higher than just qualifying for the team.

“To do an Olympics is the pinnacle of anyone’s career but this time I’m hopefully going to earn my place on a team, win a medal and make a difference,” she said.

Aimee was just 19 when she swam at the London Olympics, finishing 11th in the 400m individual medley. She was following in the footsteps of her father, Stuart, who competed in the 400m individual medley at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

She now trains in the Olympic pool at the London Aquatics Centre in Stratford and says the memory of competing in the same venue in front of a packed home crowd four years ago continues to spur her when the training gets tough. Being a UEL student means the Olympic pool is right on her doorstep.

“London 2012 was a bit surreal for me,” she said. “Looking back, it doesn’t sink in that I’ve already swam at an Olympics.

“To have the opportunity to come back and train at a pool I’ve got so many great memories from almost makes training worthwhile. When you’re waking up early in the morning and you don’t want to go, you remember you’re swimming in the Olympic pool.”

Aimee may be pursuing individual success in Rio but she is also hoping that she is not the only UEL student to be selected for the Games. She will be joined in the pool in Glasgow by fellow UEL student Michael Gunning, while as many as six of the University’s sports scholars have a chance of earning selection for Brazil.

 “It’s great to have that community at UEL,” said Aimee. “Obviously, there’s a lot of hype around sport at the University and it’s great to be involved in that. If UEL can have four or five athletes in Rio, that would be absolutely fantastic.”

Middlesbrough-born Aimee moved to London two years ago to study at UEL and has praised the University in helping her find the right balance between her training and her academic studies. 

“UEL have been great with everything since I’ve moved to London,” she said. “The accommodation I live in is two minutes away from the pool, so it’s great to just roll out of bed and be so close.

“With the flexibility I have with my studies and with the lecturers being so understanding, it makes doing swimming and university work so much easier.”