Six former students at the University of Birmingham, and one who is still a student, have been selected to take part in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.
With competition for places so stiff amongst home competitors and the selection process having been called into question in some quarters, all seven competitors have done fantastically well to book their spot for this summer’s sporting extravaganza in their home country.
With more names possibly still to be announced, our magnificent seven so far are:
Hannah England – 1500m
Biochemisty graduate England burst on to the scene when she won a silver medal at the World Championships in Daegu last year. The 1500m runner, however, had to sweat on her place for the Olympics after missing the trials due to an Achilles injury. Having missed out on the 2008 Games in Beijing, England did not suffer the same fate with her A standard qualifying time enough to guarantee her place in London.
Our former student won the indoor 3000m UK title in February and has attended two UK Athletics training camps in Kenya in order to prepare for the summer. After finding out she had been selected to compete at the Olympics the 25-year-old tweeted: “Thank you for all the congratulations :) Incredibly excited to become an Olympian. But feeling for those who have missed out.”
Louise Hazel - Heptathlon
The British public will understandably be focussed on Jessica Ennis in the Heptathlon this summer, but the Sheffield athlete will not be the only home competitor seeking a medal. 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Louise Hazel secured her place after achieving the A qualifying standard last July in Germany, and our former French Studies student will look to follow the lead of Denise Lewis who claimed gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 aged just one year above that of 26-year-old Hazel.
Dave Webb - Marathon
Members of the public who train each year to complete a marathon often have to do so around their busy work schedules, and the same is true for chartered accountant Dave Webb. The 30-year-old wakes up at 6am every day for a seven-mile training run before work and after nine hours at his day job then spends his evening doing another 15 miles. Weekends are a little more straightforward with a single 25 mile run.
Webb was one of three men selected for the marathon thanks to his 15th place finish in last year’s World Championships where he recorded a time of 2 hours 15 minutes 48 seconds, although he has not run the A qualifying standard of 2 hours 12 minutes and did not compete in the London Marathon this year.
Webb missed the showpiece event to get himself in the best possible shape possible but admits he was extremely nervous watching the race on TV, even having to keep getting up to make cups of tea in order calm himself down! His decision though has so far paid dividends.
James Fair – Hockey
Having made his international debut in January 2005, Fair will be going to his second Olympics although he will hope to make up for the disappointment of 2008 where he did not play in any of the matches. A veteran of several international tournaments, Fair highlights the winning of a gold medal and being named goalkeeper of the tournament at the European Cup in 2009 as his most memorable achievement.
In between his work at Stowe school, Fair will hope that after this summer he has a new favourite sporting moment to look back on.
Naomi Folkard - Archery
28-year-old Folkard has been shooting since trying it out at a family scout activity camp at the age of seven, yet she has not lost her enthusiasm for the sport. London will be her third Olympics: in 2004 she finished 11th individually with the women’s team coming 12th overall, whilst four years later she managed a 15th place individually but lost by six points to the Chinese in the team semi-final and could not claim the Bronze medal either.
The Music graduate is a talented violinist and pianist, having started both at a young age, and played regularly for the University’s Orchestra in her spare time. Her love of archery, though, has come first, with a series of impressive results including two Golds at the 2007 World Games. In May this year she came second in the European Championships to suggest she is once again in good form.
Tom Hall-Butcher – Wheelchair Fencing
As a multi-talented sportsman, Hall-Butcher was voted Derbyshire's Junior Disabled Sportsman of the Year in 2006 when he was 16 and even played for the Sheffield Steelers basketball team. However, the current UoB student will be competing in London at wheelchair fencing where he has already had some success.
Hall-Butcher competed at the 2006 World Cup in Paris and won the Master at Arms award at the 2012 Nottingham Open. He will be confident of doing well at the Paralympics having come 12th in the sabre competition in last year’s World Championships in Catania, Italy.
Lora Turnham - Cycling
Physiotherapy graduate Turnham only began the sport in 2009 at the university having been talked into it by a friend, but her startling rise has seen her win silver at both the Para-Cycling World Cup and Track Championships last year alongside her sighted pilot Bex Rimmington. This year she won gold in the Time Trial at the Road World Cup in Segovia.
The visually impaired student suffers from a hereditary sight loss condition and lost her vision at the age of five, but her rapid rise on the bike could be crowned with a medal now that she is guaranteed her place at the Games.
Pamela Relph – Rowing
Relph was part of the team that took two gold medals in 2011 at the World Cup in Munich and the World Championships in Slovenia. It was not long ago that she was on an army scholarship and had ambitions to join the Royal Engineers, but after suffering arthritis she took to rowing in 2010 after being introduced by older sister Monica who has also competed internationally. The Physics graduate – who also captained our award-winning cheerleading squad the Birmingham Pussycats - has progressed swiftly and can now look forward to competing in front of her home fans.