Liam named as top sportsman

4th July 2008 at 01:00
A student at Loughborough College has been named as the education world's sportsman of the year after setting a world record in swimming and qualifying for the Olympics

A student at Loughborough College has been named as the education world's sportsman of the year after setting a world record in swimming and qualifying for the Olympics.

Liam Tancock, a sports science foundation degree student, has claimed the British Universities Sports Association award for the second year running.

Among his achievements, the 23-year-old set a new world record of 24.47 seconds in the 50m backstroke at the Olympic trials in Sheffield.

It was one of 38 swimming records that have been smashed since February when swimmers began to use a Speedo suit made with a special, low-drag material that streamlines the body. The suits have prompted concern that the sport will be settled by technology and not physical ability. But the swimmers deny they have an unfair advantage. The 50m event will not be contested in Beijing, but Liam will be competing for an Olympic medal in the 100m backstroke and the 200m individual medley.

After that, he will have to finish his research project on burnout among swimmers in order to complete the foundation degree - although not before he takes a well-earned holiday to stave off any chance of his own burnout.

Liam, a former Exeter College student, was given the VIP treatment by his home town before he left for training in the run-up to Beijing, showing his medals to the crowd at the home of his favourite football club, Exeter City.

Jonathan Smith, higher education coordinator in sports, exercise and fitness at Loughborough College and one of Liam's tutors, said: "He's a determined young man. When he puts his mind to something, he does his best to achieve it. He's got a very positive personality."

The course is designed for elite athletes and those helping to train them. It includes modules on fitness testing, nutrition and sports psychology.

"Pretty much everything can be applied to his swimming," Mr Smith said.

He said the college attracts elite sportsmen and women because it gives them enough flexibility to study and compete. Liam is in the fourth year of his foundation degree.

The college benefits from links with Loughborough University, which has a renowned sports programme. Liam's girlfriend, 22-year-old Caitlin McClatchey, is a politics student at the university, and has also made the Olympic team. The couple have been dubbed the Posh and Becks of swimming.

Fellow Olympic swimmer Mel Marshall and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, a 19-year- old sprinter, a former winner of the BBC's young sports personality of the year award, as well as the International Association of Athletics Federations' rising star award, are also on the foundation course at the college

Mr Smith said: "We use everybody's experience in their different sports to try to help each other. All the students can learn from the others' experience."

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