Five University of Stirling swimmers will make the trip to the Tokyo Olympics this summer after being selected for Team GB.
The British Olympic Association confirmed their 28-strong team at events at the University of Stirling and at Loughborough University today. Pre-selected athlete, Duncan Scott, is joined by Kathleen Dawson, Ross Murdoch, Cassie Wild and Aimee Willmott, who are all part of the performance swimming programme led by Steven Tigg (Head Performance Coach), supported by Bradley Hay, High Performance Coach, and Josh Williamson, Assistant High Performance Coach.
The announcement comes just weeks after the British Swimming Selection Trials in London.
Cathy Gallagher, Executive Director of Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “Congratulations to Duncan, Kathleen, Ross, Cassie and Aimee on their selection for Team GB. It is testament to their hard work and dedication that they will represent their country in Tokyo this summer – and it's an even greater achievement when you consider the disruption caused by the pandemic over the past year.
“Our swimmers are an inspiration to their fellow performance athletes here at Stirling, to our students, staff and the wider community, and people all over Scotland. I wish them all the best as they go head-to-head with the best in the world and I would also like to pay immense credit to their coaching team, Steven Tigg – who is supporting Team GB at the competition – and Bradley Hay.”
She added: “As Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, sport is part of our DNA. We’ve just invested and opened £20 million of new facilities at the University – sport is a big part of what we do. The athletes we have at the University, our world-class coaches and the emphasis and significance we place on sport really serves as a blueprint in making things happen.”
Duncan Scott, 23, from Glasgow, said: “It is a real privilege to be announced with other Stirling swimmers today – it's great to get those signed off early and then hopefully we can add some more to the plane trip later on.
“The last year has been different but it has probably been my most consistent year of training – which is hard to believe during a pandemic. We had 15 weeks out of the pool and then, from June onwards, it has actually been really consistent. It's a massive thanks to the University for letting us train, and Scottish Swimming as well, and the people above that for allowing us to keep swimming.”
Looking ahead to Tokyo, he added: “I am looking to go head-to-head with some of the best in the world and really excited about what's to come this year. It's the pinnacle of our sport and the competition I enjoy the most.”
Kathleen Dawson, 23, from Warrington, said: “I am absolutely delighted to have made it – and be part of the Team. It has been an exceptionally challenging year and it’s been a long road getting here.
“We are going to be competing out in Budapest at the Europeans in May and we will then be heading out to Yokohama for a 10-days holding camp. As a child, I always wanted to go to the Olympics – I imagined that I could get there someday.”
Cassie Wild, 20, from Chester, said: “I couldn’t quite believe it when I found out I was part of the Team – it took me quite a while, it just didn’t feel real. The University has been really supportive – the facilities are brilliant, especially the gym – it’s been such a key part of my journey and has really helped.
“I’ve never been to Japan before, I’ve never been to a major Games – I’m just really excited to get in the Athletes Village.”
Ross Murdoch, 27, from Balloch, said: “It’s a great feeling – this will be my second Games and I’m absolutely delighted to say that I’m a double Olympian. To be wearing the kit, it’s bringing back the memories of when I was a younger swimmer and didn’t have any Teams under my belt.
“I give almost full credit to the University for my professional swimming career. I’ve been based here since February 2012 and have had all of my international success based at the University of Stirling. I wouldn’t train anywhere else.”
He added: “I think it will be great to get out to Tokyo, get a feel for the athletes’ village and for the pool – I am just really excited to be a part of it all.”
Aimee Willmott, 28, from Middlesbrough, said: “It felt really surreal to qualify for the Olympics. Tokyo will be my third Games and there was a sense of relief when, at the Trials, I hit the wall and realised what time I had done.
“I was planning on retiring after Tokyo – so last year when the Games were postponed 12 months, I had to look in the mirror and take some hard decisions. There wasn’t much else going on and all I could control was being in the pool – so I made the decision to carry on. I am really lucky that it was the right decision.”
Reflecting on the trip to Tokyo, she said: “I think it’ll be a really different Games, compared to the two I’ve already competed at, but also a real special one. I think, with the pandemic, we are in a real fortunate position to go there and achieve our dreams in the pool. I think it will be a very unique Games but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless as it’s all about performance for us.”
Steven Tigg, Head Performance Swimming Coach at the University of Stirling, said: “During the Trials earlier this month, a number of athletes met the consideration times and performed to the highest level we could have hoped for. It isn’t always easy in a Trials environment, so it is testament to their desire and character to produce those results. To have five of our swimmers confirmed today is fantastic and nice to share that news with everyone.
“We are incredibly proud of the group that we have here at Stirling – and it’s important that they receive this well-deserved recognition along with the wider coaching and support team.”
Ally Whike, Performance Director at Scottish Swimming, said: “I’m delighted for all the athletes selected for the Olympic team so far and particularly the Scottish athletes that performed so well in London. With clubs getting back to the water ‘en masse’ this week, there is much to be positive about and hopefully these selections will help to inspire the next generation of athletes.
“Congratulations must also go to the coaches and the support team based at the University of Stirling – Steven Tigg and Bradley Hay – for their excellent work with the athletes.”
Team GB Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020, Mark England, said: “In the space of less than a week we have seen the number of Team GB athletes selected for Tokyo jump from 40 to 70, which is incredibly exciting and demonstrates just how much the momentum is growing as we edge closer to 23rd July.
“The quality of this team is exceptionally high and the recent selection trials illustrated how dedicated each swimmer has been to earning their selection for Tokyo throughout what has undoubtedly been a very challenging period. Congratulations to everyone and we look forward to watching you all in action in Tokyo.”
Stirling stroke of brilliance at Trials
World champion Scott - who won silver in two events at Rio 2016 – was one of four swimmers named in the Team GB squad in January, during the pre-selection phase. However, he cemented his place with a stunning performance at the British Swimming Selection Trials earlier this month – breaking British records in the 200m Individual Medley and the 4x200m Freestyle and equalling his own British record in the 100m Freestyle.
Dawson, Wild, Murdoch and Willmott also recorded impressive times at the Trials – sealing their ticket to Tokyo.
Dawson laid down the second-fastest time in the world this year in the 100m Backstroke – tearing past the Olympic consideration time of 1:00.23 by nearly two seconds – while Wild recorded a personal best. She went on to record a personal best in the 200m Backstroke.
Murdoch, who competed at Rio 2016, finished strongly in the 200m Breaststroke to touch inside the 2:09.05 Olympic consideration requirement, while Willmott – who had considered retiring after competing at Rio – also hit an impressive time, beating the 4:36.78 target in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley to come in at 4:35:70.
Swimming programme at Stirling
The performance swimming programme – based at the National Swimming Academy, within the University's recently redeveloped state-of-the-art sports facilities – has produced and developed world-class swimmers, competing at the highest level.
It offers world-class coaching, training, competition and funding support. It brings together high performance coaches, excellent facilities and an unrivalled support service provision - including sport science, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning and performance and lifestyle mentoring.
Importantly, it enables scholars to focus on a dual career of study and sport, with a focus on preparing athletes for major competitions, and is individually tailored to help swimmers meet their goals.
Further swimmers are likely to be added when the Team GB squad is finalised in June.