Fanning flame of glory from Leeds

Alistair Brownlee of Britain,  celebrates his victory after  the men's ITU Triathlon World Championships Series  in Kitzbuehel, in the Austrian province of Tyrol, Sunday, June 24,  2012.(AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Alistair Brownlee of Britain, celebrates his victory after the men's ITU Triathlon World Championships Series in Kitzbuehel, in the Austrian province of Tyrol, Sunday, June 24, 2012.(AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
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From the torch relay to gold medal contenders, Leeds Metropolitan University can claim to have contributed a large slice of the action in the Olympic summer.

It is a common-held belief that not only the great minds, but also some of the greatest sporting stars and institutions are harnessed at the country’s universities, and Leeds Met is no exception.

The university is home to British training camps and coaching houses, to Olympic internships and champions in the making.

The best triathlete in the world, Alistair Brownlee, is studying for a masters in finance at Leeds Met, and when he is not studying he is training hard for London 2012 under the guiding eye of triathlon performance manager and former director of sport at the university, Malcolm Brown.

Brownlee, along with his younger brother Jonny, are two of the big names to watch at the Games over the coming weeks.

They compete in the Olympic triathlon on Tuesday, August 7.

Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the 20km race walk is Middlesbrough’s Johanna Jackson.


Jackson – who is reading for a degree in sports performance – bases her training at Leeds Met under the watchful guidance of UK Athletics director of race walking, Andi Drake. 

As well as 27-year-old Jackson another former Leeds Met student, Brendan Boyce, will represent Ireland in the men’s race walking event.

In the Great Britain Olympic track team is 21-year-old Laura Weightman from the north east. She will be competing in the 1,500m following an impressive season, including a stunning victory at the Aviva trials in Birmingham in June. 

Weightman is coached by former Olympic silver medallist turned television commentator Steve Cram, and is currently in the second year of a BSc (Hons) sport and exercise science degree.

Leeds Met also lays claim to two members of the highly successful City of Leeds diving club, in diver Sarah Barrow and coach Ady Hinchliffe.

Barrow, originally from Plymouth, competes in the 10m synchro in the aquatics centre next week alongside Tonia Couch. The two have been in impressive form, having won the European title earlier this season and the British trials in Sheffield last month. 

Barrow graduated with a degree in BSc (Hons) sport and exercise science in 2011, and her coach Hinchliffe is a former Leeds Met student himself.

Three weightlifters – Gareth Evans, Jack Oliver and Natasha Perdue – also train at the university’s Headingley campus, where the Team GB performance centre is based.

Evans, 26, Oliver, 21, and Perdue, who turns 37 on the day of the opening ceremony on Friday, have been able to prepare as an elite group for their home Games because of the facilities at the university.

In addition, some of Great Britain’s most prominent coaches, including Jessica Ennis’ trainer Toni Minichiello, will come together during the 2012 London Olympic Games to share their knowledge and celebrate the expertise that coaches bring to international sport at The Global Coaches House.

The Global Coaches House has been created for the duration of the Olympics as a hub for anyone who coaches other people to excel in their field to share thinking, ideas and expertise. 

The project has been commissioned by Leeds Metropolitan University in partnership with the International Council for Coach Education and will be based at the London Campus of Limkokwing University, Malaysia.

Minichiello said: “The Global Coaches House will be a brilliant base for coaches of all sports and backgrounds to visit during the Games.

“It will provide them with the opportunity to learn and connect with other coaches during what will be a very intense and exciting time.

“With all eyes on the athletes and the sports stars during the Olympics, the Global Coaches House can be used as both a haven and a place for development for the coaches who have worked, and continue to work, tirelessly with their athletes all-year round across the globe in a bid for those magic moments of success.”

And even those who are not sporting can play their role in the delivery of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Students from Leeds Met have been given the opportunity of a lifetime – to work at the Games.


Sixty-three students and alumni are working as assistant venue managers at the Olympics whilst also working to gain an accredited Institute for Leadership and Management professional qualification as part of their 13-week internship scheme.

Amy Lingard, who is studying BA (Hons) events management, said: “It’s great being able to absorb the whole experience, we’ve already learnt so much and I hope that this experience will be seen as real attribute on my CV to prospective employers after I graduate.”

Patsy Robertshaw, who manages the partnership on behalf of Leeds Met, added: “The interns are gaining valuable real-life experience of working on a global event which is invaluable in helping them secure employment following the completion of their studies.

“The placement will allow them to develop key skills, gaining hands on experience whilst making invaluable industry contacts.”

The West Yorkshire university was also where one of the designers of the Olympic Torch studied.

Edward Barber, who founded design agency Barber Osgerby, studied interior design at Leeds Met in the early 1990s and put that to good use when he helped shape the iconic Olympic Flame that has been carried on a 70-day journey around the country.

Following his undergraduate studies at Leeds Met, Barber went on to study at the Royal College of Art where he met business partner Jay Osgerby.

The two were awarded the Jerwood Applied Arts Prize in 2004, before winning the tender to design the Olympic torch.

Edward was awarded an honorary degree last month by Leeds Metropolitan University for his significant contribution to the arts.

● For more information on Leeds Metropolitan’s impact on the world of sport visit

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