In her final article for Redbrick, sport online editor Nancy Frostick reflects on a year of sporting retirements and looks forward to the next generation of Redbrick writersWritten by Nancy Frostick on 19th June 2017
Running Spotlight: UoB’s Stars Past and Present
In the final of three features for Redbrick Sport's running special, online editor Nancy Frostick takes a look at the famous faces and stars of the future to have pulled on their trainers for UoB
Following on from the rest of our running special, which has featured a Spotlight On UB Athletics' running club Cool Runnings and a preview of the Birmingham 10k, we decided to take a look at UoB's rich history of cross-country and track stars. From the Olympics to the European Championships, current students and past alumni have represented their country on the biggest athletics stages. Here’s some of the most famous names you might not know studied at UoB, as well as some of BUAC’s current stars to look out for the future:
A commonwealth gold-medallist in the heptathlon at Dehli in 2010 and member of Team GB at London 2012, Hazel is one of the most diversely talented athletes to graduate from UoB. Competing alongside Jessica Ennis-Hill for a number of years, Hazel also represented her country at the European Championships and the World Championships before announcing her retirement in 2013. The demands of the heptathlon meant mastering the 100m hurdles, the 200m and 800m running events as well as the high jump, shot put, long jump and javelin. Whilst studying French at Birmingham, Hazel also competed for prestigious running club Birchfield Harriers which has produced fellow heptathlete legends Denis Lewis and Kelly Sotherton. With a personal best score of 6156 points, Hazel is one of the top British heptathletes in the last decade.
Former Biochemistry student Hannah England is a 1500m silver medallist at the World Championships in Daegu in 2011, and has also represented Great Britain at the Olympics in 2012. A middle-distance specialist, England competes in the 800m, 1500m and mile run, and is one of only three British women in history to have run under two minutes in the 800m and under nine minutes in the 3000m alongside Christina Boxer and Kirsty Wade. She is a three-time UK 1500m champion (in 2010, 2011 and 2013) and also won NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championship titles in 1500m during a year abroad at Florida State University.
Now a BBC Sport commentator, Curbishley was former British 400m champion and a Sport and Exercise Science student at UoB, representing Great Britain and Scotland at a range of international athletics championships. Highlights from her career include a 4x400m relay bronze medal at the European Championships in Budapest in 1998 and a 400m silver in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in the same year. A 400m gold in the World Student Games in 1997 is also a notable achievement, although her career was interrupted and eventually cut short through injury, forcing her into retirement in 2003.
A triathlon legend, Wellington graduated from Birmingham with a degree in geography in 1998. The former four-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion won back-to-back titles from 2007-2009, and then another in 2011. She held all three world and championship records relating to Ironman-distance triathlon, which include the world record, the course record and also the official world record for all Ironman-branded races over that distance. The Ironman-distance triathlon comprises swimming and cycling before running anywhere between 20-30km to conclude the race. On the way to her 2011 title, she was unbeaten in all thirteen of her races, and was also the first British athlete to become world champion as well as the first athlete ever to have won the World Championship less than a year after turning professional. Between 2009 and 2011 she broke the world record three times, with her current record some 32 minutes faster than the previous.
Currently studying medicine at UoB, McDonald races for BUAC and Great Britain and is 2017 UK Indoor Champion over 1500m. At the Muller Grand Prix in Birmingham on 18 February, McDonald placed 5th in the 1000m with a personal best time of 2.39. She has also placed sixth at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in 2017, and was 1500m BUCS Nationals champion in both 2015 and 2016 but was unable to defend her title for a third time in Sheffield this year due to a fixture clash with the Muller Grand Prix. She is currently ranked second in the UK over 1500m both indoors and outdoors behind double European gold medallist Laura Muir.
Heyes represented Great Britain in Cross Country in 2012, 2013 and 2015 and is a two-time English National Cross Country Medallist in 2014 and 2015. He is currently studying for a PhD focusing on the psychological factors in the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport and recently ran a personal best in the 3000m at the Muller Grand Prix in Birmingham with a time of 7:55.76, finishing just behind UoB graduate Nick Goolab.
Goolab picked up a bronze medal in the 3000m at the Birmingham Grand Prix in February and also raced in the 5000m with eventual winner (and British athletics legend) Mo Farah. A former BUCS Cross Country champion and first-class UoB Maths graduate, Goolab recently finished in third place in the British Athletics Indoor Team Trials over 3000m.
Another athlete to race alongside Mo Farah in the 5000m at the Birmingham Grand Prix, Davies finished a respectable 8th place with a time of 13:58.04. UoB’s Sports Person of the Year Winner 2016, Bioscience student and gold scholar has a habit of following in Farah’s footsteps, becoming the first British athlete to win the European Cross Country Championships since the main man of British athletics in 2015.
After storming to the 60m hurdles title at BUCS Nationals in Sheffield earlier this year, current UoB student Jake Porter then competed the next day at the Birmingham Grand Prix to place 7th. Another member of the prestigious Birchfield Harriers athletics club, he also finished third at the British Athletics Indoor Team Trials in February.
Current student Victoria Weir finished in third place at the recent Inter-Counties Cross Country meet with a time of just over 22 minutes to earn selection for the Great Britain team for the Cross Country World Championships. She is joined in the squad by UoB alumni Rebecca Murray. Weir is a European Team Cross Country gold medallist and in July 2016 ran the fastest junior 1500m steeplechase in British track and field history. After beating the previous record by an impressive five seconds, Weir has most recently been representing UB Athletics. Her stellar performances in the last year also earned her a nomination for Plymouth's Young Sports Personality of the Year.