An LJMU student and several LJMU sports experts will be going for gold in Rio this week as the Paralympic Games 2016 gets underway.
As the games kick off tonight, Nathan Maguire, 19, an LJMU Sports Scholar, currently studying for a foundation degree in Inclusive Sport Development will be making his Paralympic debut in the 4x400m wheelchair relay.
Nathan will compete for gold alongside David Weir among others after an extensive training programme, having experienced his first major international competition at the European Championships in Grosseto qualifying for the finals in both the 200m and 800m.
LJMU’s Sports Scholarship scheme helps talented students like Nathan fulfill both their sporting and their academic potential. Students receive specialist round-the-clock guidance, access to a cash bursary, and extra study support.
LJMU’s world-leading sports scientists have also been called upon to provide crucial support to Paralympic competitors for Rio. Sports psychologist Dr Zoe Knowles has worked with former Royal Marine, Jamie Burdekin from Liverpool who will compete in wheelchair tennis. Zoe has supported him up to and during London 2012 and onwards to Rio, following a request from the British Paralympic Association.
In addition to her work with Jamie, Zoe has used her expertise to advise Paralympics GB coaches on their approach to the Rio Games. During the Games she will be part of the support team available to Jamie remotely via Skype. Prior to working with him she has supported GB Archery for the Sydney and Athens Olympiad.
Speaking of her work with Jamie, Zoe said:
“I’ve spent 20 years at LJMU undertaking research and teaching sport psychologists of the future how effective psychological skills can help elite athletes like Jamie to be Games ready.
"Jamie’s previous experiences at Paralympic Games provides a basis for coping with the event pressure, however each Games are unique. Athletes need to overcome challenges and distractions both on and off the court through robust psychological skills to allow them to be at their best mentally.”
Tabo Huntley, from the School of Sport Studies, Leisure and Nutrition has been coaching 15 year-old Scottish 200m para-athlete, Maria Lyle, from Scotland, described as “one of the hottest properties in para-athletics”. Tabo has over 20 years’ experience of developing high performing athletes across a number of sporting environments (F1, England Rugby, English Institute of Sport, Paralympics GB and Goalball). He coaches athletes over the sprints and hurdles events which are underpinned by scientific knowledge (biomechanics, physiology, anatomy and psychology).
The Paralympics follows LJMU’s success in the Rio Olympics, which saw Honorary Fellow Kate Richardson-Walsh claim gold for Team GB after an exciting penalty shoot-out victory over Holland in the women’s hockey. LJMU graduate, Sports Scholar and Liverpool-based sprinter Anyika Onoura also picked up bronze in the 4x400m relay, GB’s first 4x400m relay medal at an Olympics since Barcelona in 1992. Anthony Fowler, another LJMU graduate also competed in the boxing while Michael Rimmer, a former Sports Scholar took part in the 800m.
David McDermott, Sports Scholarship Manager at LJMU summed up the importance of the University's support and mentoring of athletes in both Olympic and Paralympic Games via the Scholarship Programme: "The Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games has seen some of LJMU's Sport Scholarship Students compete on the world's biggest sporting stage. It has been brilliant to see both LJMU current and alumni Sport Scholars representing GB and seeing all their hard work coming to fruition within a successful GB Team.
“Everyone attached to the Sport Scholarship Scheme and LJMU are very proud to see these young students continue with their studies while competing at the highest sporting level. The scheme supports the student athletes through coordinating Sport Science, academic and lifestyle support; helping the student athlete to balance their sport and academic work, in order to reach their full potential in both arenas.”
LJMU wish all competitors all the best for the Games. Find out more here about LJMU’s Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, ranked first in the UK for research quality at the REF 2014 and maintaining a high profile international reputation for research outputs and impact. Also find out more about our School of Sports Studies, Leisure and Nutrition and the Sports Scholars scheme. LJMU will also host next year's Global Coach conference in partnership with the International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE). The Conference aims to showcase and evaluate the important impact sport coaching plays throughout all levels of sport and society across the globe, with LJMU's contribution at the very forefront.