The Open University is wishing its Olympians the very best in their endeavours in London 2012. The students will all compete for Great Britain and have commented on the comparable skills of time management and organisation which they needed as they prepared for the Games.
Hockey player Alex Danson, synchronised swimmer Katie Dawkins, badminton player Imogen Bankier, table tennis player Liam Pitchford, cyclist Dani King, water polo player Rosie Morris and archery competitor Naomi Folkard – are studying subjects from business studies to politics and from sport to religion - but are all balancing a tough training regime with the flexibility of part-time study.
Alex Danson, a forward in the ladies GB hockey team, is nearing completion of an Open Degree and aims to become a teacher in the future. Alex, from Southampton, said: “I always wanted to go to the Olympics, but to be in a timescale where it is going to be a home Games is just incredible. When the selection came through I was over the moon.” Alex, whose team is ranked 4th in the world, has managed to fit her studies around her training, although now she admits the training is becoming more concentrated.
Swimmer Katie Dawkins, 23, has qualified for the GB synchronised swimming team and will compete at the Aquatics Centre, fulfilling a lifelong dream. The Bristol-born swimmer is doing the Foundation Degree in sport, health and fitness. She trains from 7am to 5pm and fits in her OU study at evenings and weekends. Talking of her selection to the Olympic synchro squad, Katie said: “It felt amazing and a little unreal when I got selected! All the hard work of the last 5 years has paid off and I was officially going to compete at a home Olympics. So exciting!”
Glaswegian badminton player Imogen Bankier, 24, is studying for a BA in Social Sciences with Politics and is studying with The Open University in Scotland. A player since the age of seven, she has qualified for the 2012 Olympics in the mixed doubles with Chris Adcock, with whom she won silver at the World Championships in 2011. Imogen, who is preparing for the Games at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes, told the OU: "I enjoy studying through the Open Uni as it gives me a focus outside of my badminton, and I enjoy learning while I have some time away from training."
Cyclist Dani King – part of GB’s sprint pursuit team - is currently working towards a BA in Business Studies with the OU. She says Universities play a “vital” role in providing technical support and inspiring people to “go on to be the best they can”. The national, European and World Team Pursuit Cycling Champion is aiming for gold for Great Britain at 2012.
At 19, Liam Pitchford is the youngest OU student taking part in the Olympics in the Team GB table tennis and is committed to study around his sport, despite the long hours training. He is studying Beginner’s German and is based in that country for his training.
Water polo player Rosie Smith from Birmingham, blends her time in the water with her studies in personal finance at the OU. The 26-year-old, who plays in goal, is working towards an BA/BSc Open Degree and has already completed courses in personal finance and mathematics.
Paralympian Debbie Criddle, also an OU student, is getting ready for her big moment in the spotlight when the Paralympics begin at the end of August. Debbie, who is competing in Equestrian dressage is studying for a BSc in Geosciences. In addition, the following Olympians have studied in the last two years with the OU too: Swimmer Sophie Allen, shooting competitor Rory Warlow, hockey player Helen Richardson, sprint canoeist Abigail Edmonds, slalom canoeist Etienne Stott, footballer Karen Carney and also among OU Alumni are diver Rebecca Gallantree and rower Alan Campbell.
Director of Students Will Swann congratulated all the athletes, saying: “We are very proud that so many Open University students are representing their nation at the Olympics and in the Paralympics. Every OU student needs real determination to succeed, balancing their studies with the rest of their lives. They are great ambassadors for their university and their country.”