For many university sports clubs the Gatorade BUCS Nationals are the pinnacle of their sporting calendar and this year’s event, held over the weekend of 23-24 February, was no exception, as over 6,000 student athletes from 134 British universities made the pilgrimage to Sheffield in pursuit of sporting glory.
Despite the unfortunate news which has emerged this weekend regarding Sheffield council’s decision to close the Don Valley athletics stadium, the steel city was a particularly apt location for such an important tournament, as Sheffield is famous for producing Olympians such as Jess Ennis and Lord Sebastian Coe.
The tournament consisted of 12 events: Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Climbing, Fencing, Judo, Karate, Orienteering, Rifle, Swimming, Tenpin Bowling and Trampolining. Each sport was able to take advantage of the city’s world class facilities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Loughborough topped the medal table, winning 69 medals, of which 26 were golds. Edinburgh made sure that Scotland was well represented at the top of the medal table, as their 33 medal haul (9 golds) saw them finish an impressive 2nd overall. St Andrews sent a strong team to the championships, entering athletes in the short-range rifle, fencing, swimming, judo, karate, climbing and trampolining events.
The short-range rifle championships took place at the Staveley Rifle club and were contested for St Andrews by Rory McAlpine and Harry Orpen-Smellie. Both finished in a four-way tie for 8th position in the individual competition and only narrowly missed out on a medal. The team came 6th in the overall competition.
A large team also travelled to Sheffield from St Andrews to compete in the fencing event. Despite tough competition, there were strong performances from Anna Balint in the women’s epee and Marianna Lanza in the women’s foil, who came in 18th and 14th respectively.
However, the most notable fencing success of the weekend came in the men’s epee where Hugh Oberlander won the bronze medal. Hugh put in an unbelievable performance, coping with the large crowds and admirably contending with a tournament format which was very different from the usual team matches that the university takes part in.
Hugh was “very pleased” and said that his performance proves “that commitment and training really pay off.” He also emphasised his teammates’ role in his success.
“Having so many people standing behind you shouting encouragement gives you much more motivation to dig deep and give it your all.”
St Andrews also met with success in the judo competition. The team was 5 members strong: Andrew Pickin (c), Philip Miller, Robert Morgan, Chris Curry and Tauke Seiketov. Despite a sudden and very inconvenient schedule change, Seiketov was able to fight his way through six bouts to a silver medal in the men’s 2 kyu and below 73kg category. He called his medal proof “that you can fight and win in spite of any difficulties.”
The karate team continued the University’s success. John Greenwood reached the quarter finals, where he was knocked out by the eventual gold medallist. However, he overcame his disappointment and bravely fought through two rounds of the repechage to gain a bronze medal in the 80kg kumite (sparring) category. This feat, impressive in itself, is even more astounding given the fact that John only took up karate 18 months ago. The rest of the team – Mark Hardy (Senior), Tashi Sherpa and Abbey Cameron (Novice) – all improved on their previous competition performances. Abbey Cameron (Karate Club captain) hoped that the club could build “on the success at BUCS for the SSS Karate Championships, being held at the University of Glasgow in three weeks’ time.”
The St Andrews climbing team – Merlin Floate, Eric Morden, Robert Patchett, John Hall, Victoria Culshaw, Rebecca Hughes, Xiao Xian Goh and Alexandra Sandelescu – came 14th in the climbing competition with a score of 513.
In the swimming event, the best performances came from Will Johnston who came 19th in his heat of the men’s open 100m butterfly heats and Austin Peh who came 21st in his heat of the men’s open 50m backstroke.
In trampolining, Sarah McGowan and Jenni Awang came 5th and 11th in the BUCS 4 Ladies competition and in the BUCS 5 Ladies competition Claire Mitchell and Lottie Barker finished 15th and 23rd.