The Scottish Parliament has recognised the tenth anniversary of Stirling’s designation as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
Then First Minister Alex Salmond bestowed the prestigious title on Stirling in 2008, celebrating the University as a centre of excellence providing training and support for high performance athletes.
Over the past decade, Stirling sports stars – including household names such as Duncan Scott, Robbie Renwick and Ross Murdoch – have enjoyed medal success on the world stage, at both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
SNP MSP Keith Brown marked the landmark occasion with a parliamentary motion, supported by politicians from across Scotland.
He asked colleagues to recognise “the contribution that the University’s students and alumni have made to Scotland’s sporting success locally, nationally and internationally”, noting the 11 medals won at this year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the three at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Mr Brown also celebrated recent announcements: on the University becoming a Lawn Tennis Association National Academy and the multi-million-pound upgrade of the existing sports facilities.
He asked colleagues to note that:
"this excellence in performance, participation, research and academia, will be strengthened further through the establishment of a National Tennis Academy and a £20million transformation of the University’s sports facilities".
Mr Salmond announced that Stirling was to receive the prestigious title, as well as £600,000 from the Scottish Funding Council, in July 2008, to act as the hub of a national network of universities and colleges, providing training and support for Scotland’s best athletes – known as the Winning Students programme.
Speaking at the time, then University Principal, Professor Christine Hallett, said: “We are delighted that Stirling has been recognised as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, a move which will be the catalyst for developing a successful sporting future for Scotland.
“In creating a world-class centre for sporting excellence here, the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council have recognised that Scotland can raise its profile by supporting athletes and sporting research.”
Since then, Stirling has produced many world-class athletes, who have gone on to win titles at the highest level.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Dehli, Stirling swimmers Andy Hunter, Jak Scott and Lewis Smith won silver for Team Scotland in the 4x200m freestyle relay, with further success coming four years later in Glasgow, where Ross Murdoch won gold in the 200m breaststroke and bronze in the 100m event. Jak Scott and fellow Stirling scholar Cameron Brodie also won silver at the 2014 Games, finishing second in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Stirling scooped three silver medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, with Duncan Scott and Robbie Renwick in the Great Britain team that finished second in the 4x200m freestyle relay. Duncan Scott was also part of the team that won silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
However, it was earlier this year that Stirling enjoyed its greatest success to date – returning from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with 11 medals.
An outstanding performance from Duncan Scott saw the 21-year-old swimmer take gold in the 100m freestyle, silver in the 200m individual medley and four bronze medals in the 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, and the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relay events.
Scott McLay and Craig McLean were also part of Team Scotland’s 4x100m freestyle relay squad, while Ross Murdoch left Australia with a silver for his efforts in the 200m breaststroke.
English swimmer Aimee Willmott won gold in the 400m individual final, while Marc Austin – a former sports scholar – won bronze in the triathlon.
Over the last 10 years, Stirling has also produced leading athletes across a wide range of sports, such as triathletes David McNamee, Grant Sheldon and Natalie Milne; badminton star Kirsty Gilmour; and tennis ace Jonny O’Mara.
Scotland hockey international Alison Bell; curling’s Kyle Waddell; and boccia star Scott McCowan – who competed for Team GB at the Paralympics – also came through Stirling programmes.
In addition, a number of Scottish international women’s footballers have also come through the ranks at Stirling, including former Manchester City and current West Ham United striker Jane Ross.
Today, Stirling remains at the forefront of supporting and inspiring talented athletes to fulfil their sporting and academic potential, offering sports scholarships across seven different sports: men’s football, women’s football, tennis, triathlon, golf, swimming and curling.
The University’s sports facilities are currently undergoing a £20 million redevelopment, which will see an iconic new complex integrated with existing world-class facilities. The new building will include purpose-built studios, an innovative fitness suite, a three-court sports hall, an indoor cycling studio, a strength and conditioning area and a new state-of-the-art high performance suite. Users of the new building will also benefit from enhanced changing facilities and communal spaces.
Earlier this year, the Lawn Tennis Association announced that Stirling would be home to one of its two National Academies, and Scottish Rugby revealed that the University, in partnership with Stirling County, would have a place in its new semi-professional Super 6 league.
In addition, the University continues to be home to the National Swimming Academy, while Sport Scotland, Commonwealth Games Scotland, Scottish Swimming, Triathlon Scotland and the Scottish Football Association Central Area, are all located on campus.