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What has been going on this summer?

(13 September 2008)

As we reach September and contemplate the return of our athletes for pre season in just seven days time, it seemed an ideal time to review what has undoubtedly been a summer full of activity.

In performance terms our rowers have dominated the spotlight. We all felt a great deal of pride when no less than four ex Durham University Boat Club members reached separate finals at the Olympics in Beijing. If it is appropriate to pick out a ‘highlight’ from the Regatta, Steve Rowbotham’s bronze in the Men’s Double Sculls is undoubtedly that, especially as he had never even sat in a boat before he arrived at Durham.

The achievements of our current students should also not go unnoticed. Six DUBC rowers went to the Under Twenty Three World Championships in early August and all six won through their heats and semi-finals to represent Great Britain in the finals. A fantastic achievement in its own right. Pride of place undoubtedly goes to Emily Taylor (Hatfield) and Hannah Elsy (St Marys). They won Bronze medals in the heavy weight double. Durham University women have won world medals before as individuals but this was the first time a women's boat has been selected from the University to represent GB and gone on to win medals as a crew.

Our Hockey Club have also been busy. The Men’s First Team toured America in early August, an extremely important pre-season process ahead of their debut in the National League. The Women’s First Team returned from their tour of South Africa this evening. National League competition is nothing new to them and we are genuinely hopeful that the team will make a real impact in the league this time around.

There have also been a number of comings and goings amongst our staff. Our drive for third place in the BUCS overall points table has been strengthened by the recruitment of full time coaches in basketball, lacrosse and tennis.

Stephen Jones joined the team a couple of weeks ago from Birmingham University. The ex England junior international will add a great deal to the Basketball Club as they strengthen their partnership with the Durham Wildcats whilst the male and female teams are looking to achieve back to back promotions in the BUCS leagues.

Emily Blatter arrived in England last Friday to take on the role of full time women’s lacrosse coach for the 2008-09 season. Emily recently graduated from Goucher University in the USA where she captained her Varsity side and achieved selection for the 2008 All American University squad. She is the first University Coaching Officer in Britain to be part funded by the English Lacrosse Association, and the club will go into the 2008-09 season believing that national success at First, Second and Third team level is a distinct possibility.

Our tennis programme has also been significantly strengthened by the appointment of Martin Baldridge as Senior Coach. He starts work in three weeks time. Martin, who was once ranked in the top thirty in Britain, and is an LTA Level 3 Performance Coach, will be supported by Adam Barraclough who has recently stopped competing on the Challenger tour. Last year our Women’s First Team reached the last four of the national championships. We are hopeful that they might go one better this year, whilst the men’s objective is to gain promotion back to the Northern Premier League having narrowly missed out in the play-offs last time around.

Our strength and conditioning team has also been enhanced. July witnessed the departure of Brendan Chaplin to the Lawn Tennis Association. However we have been fortunate to find ideal replacements in the form of former student and Newcastle Falcons rugby player Rob Vickers, who will be joined by Darran Fowler, a 2006 Bath University graduate who has been working with Sale Sharks for much of the last twelve months.

So will 2008-09 be better than 2007-08? It will be tough to eclipse what was one of the greatest years in our history but we all believe that more is possible. Third place in the BUCS overall points table is a realistic possibility although it may take us another year to topple Birmingham – time will tell. The information we are receiving about our new intake of students is extremely exciting and we appear to have recruited well across a diverse range of sports. We will know a great deal more about what is likely to lie ahead this time next month.