Tennis ace Alex Walker and swimmers Jay Lelliott and Thomas Tsiopanis are the latest University of Bath students to be called up for this summer’s World University Games.
They will join badminton player Angus Pedersen and shooter Kristian Callaghan at the biennial competition, taking place in Gwangju, South Korea from July 3-14.
Tennis player Walker, who combines studying for a Masters in Business with training with Team Bath MCTA, is a mainstay of the University of Bath women’s squad which has claimed four successive BUCS Team Championship titles.
She won a British Tour event at the University of Bath in January and then teamed up with Business Administration student Natasha Starling to take the women’s doubles crown at the BUCS Individual Tennis Championships in March having won the singles title 12 months earlier.
“I am delighted, especially as this is my last chance to go to the Games,” said Walker, who has just completed her Masters exams and will hand in her dissertation in September. “It is always an honour to play for Great Britain, especially at an event as prestigious as this. There are not many opportunities for us tennis players to be part of a team alongside athletes, swimmers and gymnasts, so it’s really exciting.”
Walker – supported by the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) – is also proud to be representing the University of Bath on the international stage. “It is an amazing place,” she said. “It’s not just the facilities, it is the team environment that has been fostered here.”
“We are very fortunate to have such a big number of high-standard players based here. There are not many places where you get to train alongside someone who has played at Wimbledon, especially as a student. The support from TASS this year has also been a massive help. It has allowed me to have regular strength and conditioning sessions, and I also have access to a lifestyle advisor who has helped me get the balance between sport and study.”
Walker has also taken on the role of University Tennis Coordinator this year, in which she provides opportunities for students, staff and the general public to get involved in the sport.
Barry Scollo, Director of Tennis at Team Bath MCTA, will coach the Great Britain team in Gwangju and is delighted that Walker has been selected.
“Alex has had an incredible year,” he said. “It has been very busy with playing, coaching and studying for a full-time Masters but she has made it work. She is a great ambassador for university tennis – not only on the court but through her coaching and getting other people into the sport.”
Sports Performance student Lelliott – supported by a Santander Sports Scholarship – is no stranger to multi-sport events, having represented England at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
He went on to claim 400m freestyle bronze at the 2014 European Championships – his senior British debut – and has won three gold, six silver and four bronze medals for the University of Bath in BUCS [British Universities & Colleges] competitions during the past two years.
“I am really excited,” said Lelliott, who was short-listed for the Sports Personality of the Year prize at this year’s Blues Awards.
“I didn’t really swim as well as I’d hoped at the British Championships this year, so I am really happy to have another chance to show what I am capable of this summer.
“The World University Games are the second biggest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games, so it will be a great experience. Big events can be nerve-wracking but I think my Commonwealth Games experience will help.”
Lelliott also believes he will be better prepared than he was for Glasgow after finding the right balance between sport and study.
“I have been a lot more organised this year and got my assignments done nice and early, so I haven’t had to miss a single training session,” said Lelliott, who is taking a break from his studies in 2015-16 to concentrate on qualification for the Rio Olympics.
“I love being back in the University of Bath pool. It’s great to be able to get a good, consistent block of training again and I am already feeling a lot stronger.”
Lelliott is part of University of Bath head swimming coach Mark Skimming’s performance group, as is Sports Performance student Thomas Tsiopanis.
He has been selected to represent Cyprus at the Games and is currently competing for his country at the Small States of Europe Games in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Skimming will also be travelling to Gwangju after being named as head coach of the British swimming team.