The University of Stirling will host a swimmer from the United States Virgin Islands next month as he prepares to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Freestyle swimmer Branden Whitehurst will be based at the National Swimming Academy on campus from Friday 20 to Wednesday 25 July following a partnership arrangement with sportscotland and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).
Whitehurst has competed at the last two FINA World Championships and qualified for London at the 2012 Missouri Grand Prix in February.
The 22-year-old, from the Caribbean island St Croix, will make the most of the University’s 50m pool and adjacent land-conditioning suite at the Academy, which is also home to Scotland’s only Intensive Training Centre (ITC) for British swimmers and a performance centre for disability swimmers.
He will also benefit from sport science support provided by Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and video analysis from University partner Elite Sports Analysis, as well as nutritional support from sportscotland.
Andrei Cross, a postgraduate Sports Coaching student at Stirling, represented Barbados at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and is looking forward to welcoming Whitehurst on campus.
He said: “Four years ago I was in that same position as Branden so I can imagine exactly what he is going through. There isn’t much time left to get any fitter and you don’t want to tweak or adjust your technique too much; at this stage it’s more about being comfortable in your own skin and finding the balance between work, recovery and preparing mentally.
“It was a dream-come-true for me to represent my country at an Olympic Games, a moment I had imagined since I was six. I would encourage Branden to take it in his stride as much as possible as it may be the biggest stage in sport, but it is still just a race and all you can do is perform to the best of your ability.”
Swimming is part of the University’s International Sports Scholarship Programme, and has supported six students competing at the past two Olympic and Paralympic Games, including Andrew Hunter, who went on to win a silver medal for Team Scotland at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games with current student Jak Scott and Lewis Smith.
Rob Bale, who also trains at the Stirling ITC, has already qualified for London and several University scholarship swimmers are also hopeful of making Team GB following the British Gas ASA National Championships currently underway in Sheffield.
Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal of the University, said: “To compete at an Olympic Games is the pinnacle of an athlete’s sporting career. I am delighted that the University of Stirling is supporting Branden in his preparations. Excellence is what Stirling is about and supporting world class athletes in this way is one means of demonstrating our commitment to high quality education.”
Louise Martin, Chair of sportscotland, said: “sportscotland is working with our partners to develop a world-class sporting infrastructure in Scotland. It is testament to the excellent facilities at the University of Stirling that Branden has elected to prepare for the Olympics there. I know he will be impressed with the facilities on campus and I wish him well for the Games.”