Round up of Cambridge University Olympians: Week 1

Ben Dalton, News Reporter 7 August 2012

As Cambridge students, we are by now very used to the fact that even if we are the very best at something, someone else will manage to be the very best plus one.

With its weighty Cantabrigian presence, the London 2012 Olympic games come as a further reminder that we are up against super-humans – in this instance, people as at home on Hermes as they are in lycra and running shoes. Indeed, Cambridge boasts a long history of Olympic success, with a total of over 300 Olympians and 80 gold medals since the modern games began in 1896.

Cantabs have continued this tradition into 2012, with a total of four medals so far – 2 gold and 2 bronze, all for Team GB. 12 Cantabs are in this year’s Olympics, including six Engineering alumni.

Anna Watkins won a gold medal in the Women’s Double Sculls, helping partner Katherine Grainger to finally achieve her Olympic dream after a seemingly unbreakable string of silvers. Watkins, now 29, began rowing at 18 to “keep fit” when studying Engineering at Newnham College.

A second gold in rowing was enjoyed by former Trinity Hall Engineer Tom James MBE. James helped the British crew to victory in the Men’s Four final with a time of 6:03.97 to add to his gold from Beijing in 2008.

George Nash, a current Engineering student at St Catharine’s and CUBC president next year, also managed to bag himself a medal. Competing against New Zealand’s unstoppable Murray and Bond in the Men’s Pair, Nash and his partner William Satch were delighted to win bronze, describing their success as “a dream come true”. Silas Stafford, who studied for an MPhil in Geography at Gonville & Caius, came 8th in the same race, rowing for USA.

Tom Ransley, alumnus of Hughes Hall and CUBC, also wears the bronze having rowed in the Men’s Eight. Rowing in the same race, Jake Cornelius, who studied Engineering at Emmanuel, came in just behind Ransley in 4th in the US boat.

Annie Vernon, a History alumna from Downing, came in 5th in the Women’s Eight for Team GB.

However, Cantabs have not just competed in the rowing, populating many corners of the Team GB squad. Andy Baddeley, who read Engineering at Caius and achieved a starred First, ran in the men’s 1,500m, unfortunately missing out on a medal with a defeat in the semi final.

Julia Bleasdale, another former Engineer, this time of Pembroke College, came in 8th in the Women’s 10,000m. She will compete in the 5,000m this week, with a semi-final on Tuesday and hopefully a final on Friday.

A Cantab presence was also to be felt in the sailing and cycling, with Emma Pooley, another graduate in Engineering from Tit Hall, achieving a commendable 6th in the Women’s Individual Time Trial. She also came 40th in the Women’s Road Race. Annie Lush rowed in the winning crew of the 2001 Women’s Boat Race while she was at Emma but has made her career in Sailing. She is currently competing in the Women’s Elliott 6m, which concludes on Saturday.

Stacie Powell, currently studying for a PhD in Astrophysics at Churchill College, also starts competition this week in the Women’s 10m Platform diving event. Watch out for her on Wednesday and Thursday – and if you’re wondering how she juggles her training with a PhD, she apparently reads papers when she has “a spare minute at the pool”!

Ben Dalton, News Reporter