The Olympic guests with Martin Bean
Olympians who have combined reaching the pinnacle of their sporting career with studying at The Open University, came together last week at Walton Hall in Milton Keynes to mark their double achievements.
Open University Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean led the tributes to the student and alumni who took part in London 2012 including Olympic athletes, torch bearers and volunteers.
The occasion, hosted by Director of Communications Lucian Hudson, comprised speeches and a panel discussion with athletes and was rounded off with a special unveiling of a plaque to commemorate this unique year in the lives of the students and the University. Assisting the Vice-Chancellor in the unveiling was Ireland Honorary Graduate Dame Mary Peters, who won Olympic Gold in the 1972 Olympics in the women’s pentathlon.
Attendees included four 2012 Olympic athletes: Etienne Stott (Gold, canoe slalom), Helen Richardson (Bronze, women’s hockey), Alex Danson (Bronze, women’s hockey) and 2012 Alan Campbell (Bronze, rowing). Two Olympic torch bearers who are also OU students attended - Nicci Shrimpton and Rakesh Kumar – as well as academics from the OU’s sports subjects and members of the local OU community.
“OU students achieved so much, helped I believe by the special relationship we have together. In particular this relationship is based on two qualities – flexibility and dedication. Flexibility is something for which the OU is very well known, enabling our students, athletes or not, continue to work while studying, fitting their studying around their busy lives.”
He continued: “Add to this the dedication that students must have in order to meet our high standards and balance their studies while holding down a job, raising a family or winning a medal and one has the magic formula for Paralympian or Olympian success. In short, I believe that The OU saw so many students past and present succeeding in the sporting field in 2012 because the skills they must apply to their study were transferrable to their sport. And that made us very proud indeed.”
Alan Campbell, Bronze medallist and OU Business Diploma holder said: “The Vice Chancellor mentioned flexibility and dedication but I’d also like to add the word inspiration. I was inspired to do better by many people, my family, my coaches and by the staff here at the OU. They lived and breathed the ambition I have for my sport and were simultaneously able to provide me with the education I would need for my future career once the Olympics dream was behind me.”
He continues: “Success at any level depends on gut determination, and here at the OU students are encouraged to use their own determination to succeed. I know that the medal I carry today is only a piece of metal. But just like a degree certificate, it is a mark of that determination that shows how much I, and my OU Olympic and Paralympic colleagues wanted to succeed and to better ourselves.”
Echoing the theme of determination, Dame Mary Peters, OU Honorary Graduate, Olympian and Gold medal winner in the Pentathalon at the Munich Olympics in 1972 spoke of the differences in the Olympics over the years. ”When I competed in Munich I was 33, I worked full time, and I had no track to train on. So much was in the mind and so much was about opportunity. I wasn’t the best athlete in the world but I became that person because I believed I could," she said.
Dame Mary continued: “Working in Northern Ireland to obtain my Olympic goal was very hard though, particularly as 1972 at the height of the troubles in Belfast, and I remember catching two buses twice a day to get between work and training sessions while avoiding road blocks. I would sometimes hear explosions in the distance and wonder whether I was mad for trying to work and train through the troubles. But I didn’t wonder for long – instead I pushed on because I was determined and in the end, as we know, that paid off.”