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Top Sports Stories from 2021

22 December 2021

7 mins

With the arrival of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, we knew that 2021 would be an amazing year for Loughborough University. Here are some of the defining moments of our fantastic year!

Loughborough Lightning crowned 2021 VNSL champions

Loughborough Lightning made history by claiming their first ever Vitality Netball Superleague title with a triumphant 49 – 32 victory over Team Bath.

In the sixteen years of the franchise’s existence, Lightning had made it to three grand finals prior to 2021 but never managed to cross the line, and after a confident twenty goal win in their semi-final the previous day, Lightning were looking to rewrite history and claim their first title.

(Photo by Morgan Harlow)

Loughborough Sport partner with Sporting Minds UK

In recognition of Mental health Awareness Week (10 May – 16 May), Loughborough Sport further strengthened its mental health support to its student-athletes through a new partnership with Sporting Minds UK.

Sporting Minds UK is a registered charity that seeks to raise awareness and provide support for positive mental health in sportspeople aged 16 to 30 where they can access free, fast and confidential private mental health support.

Cycling Festival a huge success as riders turn on the style

(first major sporting event on campus ‘post-covid’)

The inaugural Loughborough Cycling Festival proved to be a great success with some of the UK’s best cyclists descending on campus for a full day of elite-level competition.

Held in glorious bank holiday sunshine, riders competed on the fast, technical criterium circuit, which included steep hill climbs and numerous 90 degree turns that tested athletes both physically and technically.

The Elite Men’s Criterium was won by Toby Barnes (Crimson Orientation Marketing Race Team, and current Loughborough Cycling Academy rider).

Loughborough University launches new Lightning wheelchair basketball team

Loughborough University was selected as a High-Performance Partner for British Wheelchair Basketball in a move that would also see the formation of a brand-new Lightning team.

Loughborough’s unique combination of outstanding sports facilities, world-leading performance support and Para sport infrastructure led to it being the home of British Wheelchair Basketball (BWB) and a BWB centre of excellence for wheelchair basketball teams. 

This announcement marked the launch of British Wheelchair Basketball’s inaugural Women’s Premier League – the very first professional para-sport league in the UK in which the new Lightning side would compete.

Loughborough Lightning joins forces with Northampton Saints

Loughborough Lightning Rugby announced an innovative new partnership with Northampton Saints. 

The new arrangement saw Loughborough Lightning – who have reached the semi-finals of the last two Allianz Premier 15s seasons – become a joint Loughborough Lightning / Northampton Saints elite women’s team, with both partners looking to drive performance outcomes to ensure ongoing success at the pinnacle of professional English rugby.

Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning Assistant Coach/Player and England Roses Captain) and Lewis Ludlam Northampton Saints player

Loughborough’s Dearing made her “bittersweet” Olympic debut

Alice Dearing made Olympic history by becoming the first British black woman to swim for Team GB.

The current Loughborough student finished 19th in women’s 10km marathon swim in tough conditions in Tokyo Bay. Despite the early morning start, water temperatures still rose to 30 degrees in what is arguably one of the most brutal sports at the Olympic Games.

Dearing’s legacy will certainly live long and following the race she told the BBC that the sport is “available to anyone“.

Superb Peaty wins Loughborough’s first medal of Tokyo Olympics

Adam Peaty made history as he powered to 100m breaststroke gold in Tokyo.

The 26-year-old became the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title as he blew away the field at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre to take victory in 57.37 seconds.

Peaty’s time was the fifth-fastest recorded in Olympic history, with the current world record holder visibly emotional at taking the title.

Loughborough’s Adam Peaty won gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke. Image provided by PA / Alamy.

Alumnus Heath wins Olympic bronze in dramatic fashion

Loughborough University alumnus Liam Heath won a dramatic bronze medal in the men’s kayak single 200m in Tokyo.

In a photo finish, Heath edged out Hungary’s Kolos Csizmadia to secure his third consecutive medal at an Olympic Games in a time of 35.202 seconds.

The 36-year-old also set an Olympic-best time of 33.985 seconds in qualifying.

Great Britain’s Liam Heath after winning bronze in the Men’s Kayak Single 200m in Tokyo. Image provided by PA / Alamy.

Brilliant bronze for Loughborough’s history maker Bradshaw

Loughborough’s Holly Bradshaw made history by becoming the first-ever British person to win an Olympic pole vault medal.

In a thrilling final at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Bradshaw cleared 4.85m to make the podium.

Bradshaw – a current student at Loughborough University – was competing in her third Olympic Games and has now written her name in UK athletics’ record books.

Holly Bradshaw celebrates bronze in the Women’s Pole Vault Final at Olympic Stadium, Tokyo. Image provided by PA / Alamy.

Olivia Broome also produced the performance of her life to win a brilliant bronze at the Paralympic Games.

The 19-year-old current University student lifted 107kg in the women’s -50kg powerlifting category to make the podium in her first-ever Games.

In a tough field, Broome completed the third-best lift of the day – edging out her nearest opponent by just 1kg – as Dandan Hu (China) won gold and Rehab Ahmed (Egypt) took silver.

Great Britain and Loughborough’s Olivia Broome on the podium after winning the bronze medal in the Women’s -50 kg Final at the Paralympic Games. Image provided by PA / Alamy.

Double gold for Loughborough on Super Saturday in Tokyo

Thomas Young and Sophie Hahn both won stunning gold medals in an unbelievable day for Loughborough at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Competing in the men’s T38 100m, Young produced a determined performance to blow away his rivals with a personal best of 10.94 seconds to take his maiden Paralympic medal.

In the women’s T38 100m, Sophie Hahn powered to a brilliant gold to defend her Paralympic title. In another excellent performance, Hahn edged away from her competitors to finish in 12.43 seconds.

Hahn looked in fine form prior to the final by equalling her own world record in the heats and is now unbeaten in seven years, having never lost a 100m final.

Great Britain and Loughborough’s Thomas Young celebrates with his gold medal won in the Men’s 100m – T38 final. Image provided by Alamy / PA.

Lane-Wright wins historic hat-trick of medals for ParalympicsGB

Loughborough University alumna Crystal Lane-Wright completed a historic hat-trick of medals for ParalympicsGB by winning silver in the women’s C4-5 road race.

This was Lane-Wright’s third silver medal of the delayed 2020 Paralympic Games following podium finishes in the women’s C5 individual pursuit and the women’s C5 cycling time trial.

In difficult conditions, the 35-year-old remained at the front of the pack throughout the race, eventually breaking away with fellow Briton Sarah Storey to record a GB 1-2.

Great Britain and Loughborough’s Crystal Lane-Wright (left) with the silver medal, alongside Sarah Storey (centre) with the gold medal, and France’s Marie Patouillet with the bronze in the Women’s C4-5 Road Race at the Fuji International Speedway.
Image provided by Alamy / PA.

And last but definitely not least…

We are the Sports University of the Year!

Sport began to get back into action during 2021 following a tough period for all in the sector. And sport at Loughborough has made an impressive return, being named University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

This is the third time we’ve received the prestigious title, which has come following yet another impressive medal haul by our students, graduates, and hosted athletes, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Loughborough athletes brought back 35 medals from Tokyo, that’s three more than New Zealand. This included 9 Gold, 12 Silver and 14 Bronze.

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