A RECORD-breaking seven Durham University students, past and present, have been chosen to represent their home nations at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

Six sporting stars will be representing Team GB in hockey and rowing, and one recent graduate will be representing Canada in fencing. The athletes were recently congratulated during a group Zoom call with Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge.

Leading the charge to Tokyo is twenty-one-year old Fiona Crackles, a second year, sport and exercise sciences student, representing Team GB as part of the women’s hockey squad.

Fiona said: “I am so excited to be a part of something so great. It really fills me with such pride and it just feels incredible. It’s been a real balance juggling both my academic studies and my commitment to hockey, but everyone has been so supportive and understanding. The fact that I am now part of Team GB gives me goosebumps.”

Fiona is joined by history graduate Jack Waller, 24, and sport, exercise and physical activity graduate Ollie Payne, 22, who form part of the men’s hockey squad.

Head hockey coach Gareth Weaver-Tyler said: “It has been an honour to be part of the journey of all three of these incredible players and to hold so many special memories and success stories from a club, team and individual perspective.

“They have all been a pleasure to work with throughout the years and I know I speak on behalf of all involved with Durham University Hockey Club as I wish them the very best of luck and our utmost congratulations on their selection for the Olympic Games.”

Alumni Angus Groom, 29, and Matt Rossiter, 31, have been selected to row for Team GB, and James Harris is now a senior coach, having made history coaching the ‘women’s eight’ in Rio 2016 - the first Team GB women’s eight to win an Olympic medal.

Representing Canada is MSc management graduate Eli Schenkel, 28, who will compete as part of the fencing team.

In one of his last acts as Vice-Chancellor before his retirement on 31 July, Professor Corbridge met with five of the Olympians on a Zoom call to wish them all the best for the Games.

He said: “It was wonderful to have the time to speak to our Olympians before they flew to Tokyo.

"On behalf of the whole Durham University community we wish them the best of luck. To have seven athletes, past and present, selected for the Olympic Games is truly magnificent and a testament to all the hard work they have put in throughout the years to get to where they are right now. We will be following their Olympic journeys with pride and sending our support and best wishes from home.

“We are proud to have been part of their journey and, following the construction of our new £32m Sports and Wellbeing Park, we are confident that we will continue to offer elite athletes the very best support in order for them to maximise their sporting potential whilst studying for a world class degree.”

Durham University has a rich history of sporting success. Since 2013, Durham has been Britain’s Number 1 Team Sport University, supporting over 50 capped internationals per year as well as an ever-growing performance and participation programme.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which have been rescheduled from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will begin with the opening ceremonies on Friday 23rd July.

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