With the World University Summer Games set to begin this weekend, two County Tyrone sports personalities are making waves at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
University of Stirling swimmer Calum Bain, from Dungannon in County Tyrone, will this week fly out to Chinese Taipei ahead of the Summer Games, which run from 19-30 August. And the 20-year-old’s progress will be closely monitored by compatriot Cathy Gallagher, from nearby Donaghmore, in her role as Stirling’s Director of Sport.
Bain, a second-year accountancy student, is part of Stirling’s internationally renowned high performance swimming programme and, over the past year, has been training with coach Bradley Hay with an eye on making Team Ireland’s Summer Games squad.
After impressing with a gold-winning performance at the Irish national trials, and posting a new Ulster record and consideration time for next year’s Commonwealth Games at the British Summer Championships, the former Royal School Dungannon pupil was rewarded with a call-up and is in good shape ahead of Taipei.
“When I sat down with Brad at the start of the year, everything was geared towards Taipei so to make the team has justified all the hard work and I’m just excited to get out there, not just to race but to take in the atmosphere as well – especially the opening ceremony,” he said.
“I’ve competed at national competitions before but this will be my first senior international event so I’m excited about being exposed to such a high level of competition and testing myself.”
Although he focuses primarily on 50m events, he will be part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team where some old partnerships will be renewed and past rivalries rekindled.
“There are actually quite a few guys I’ve raced with and against going to the Games, and even a couple from my Ulster juniors relay team, so it’ll be good to team-up with them again as well as take on a few familiar faces.”
Bain’s transition to senior international competition follows his decision to join the University of Stirling’s International Sports Scholarship Programme and high performance swimming squad last year.
It was a decision made all the easier with the University’s reputation for producing Olympic-level athletes, with four swimmers achieving three medals in Rio last year. The team also secured a further three medals at this summer’s FINA World Championships in Budapest, including a gold for Duncan Scott in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
“My main reason for choosing Stirling was obviously the sport, but also how the University could help me combine my swimming with my studies,” Bain continued.
“My swimming has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years and I’m continually making progress and hitting targets which is largely down to the high quality of coaching and programming we receive.
“However, being away from home has also made me a lot more independent and focused on what I need to do and I’m much better organised in terms of balancing the training and competing with the academic work. This is partly down to being on the scholarships programme but also just a result of how things work at Stirling.
“Stirling’s a nice historic city with plenty to offer and being from a smaller town it had everything I was looking for so that, along with the swimming programme and support that comes with, made it a pretty easy decision for me.”
With over 10,000 athletes and 170 competing countries, the World University Summer Games, or Universiade, is the second largest multi-sport event on the globe, behind the Olympics. It brings together the world’s leading student athletes for 12 days of intense competition alongside a variety of cultural and educational experiences.
Ms Gallagher was appointed Stirling’s Director of Sport in March 2016 after holding positions at Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast. She will be keeping a close eye on Bain and Team Ireland’s progress in Taipei.
“I always had a passion and drive for sport at university having been involved in three clubs whilst at Queen’s University Belfast so I understand the impact sport can have on students and I’m thrilled for Calum and his development over his first two years with us,” she said.
“Calum’s selection is testament to his hard work and natural talent and it’s great we’ve been able to support his progress both in and out of the pool.
“We believe sport has a huge role to play in the development of students as individuals as well as athletes, meaning both the social and academic sides of university life are promoted just as much as the performance element.
“That’s what makes the role so interesting and I’m immensely proud to be leading sport at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence which commits us to delivering excellence in everything we do. Whether that’s developing Olympic athletes or encouraging health and wellbeing at a recreational level we aspire to set standards in the delivery of sport and physical activity in the university sector.”
Ms Gallagher was Team Ireland’s Head of Delegation to the World University Summer Games in 2011 (Shenzhen), 2013 (Kazan) and 2015 (Gwangju), and was part of the Irish team at four other Games. Therefore, the former St Joseph’s Grammar School pupil has a long association with the competition and will be cheering on Bain as well as six other Stirling athletes who will represent Teams GB and Switzerland in swimming, football and golf, demonstrating the strength of the University’s successful high performance programmes
She added: “The World University Summer Games is a wonderful event and a great opportunity for Calum and the other students to test themselves at the very top of international student sport.
“As well as the competition itself, they will enjoy such memorable cultural and interpersonal experiences so I’m delighted their hard work, and that of their coaches, has been rewarded with selection.
“Their ability to combine studying with such committed training and competing is an inspiration for everyone at the University and I know they will thrive in the unique arena of the Games.”