Three athletes supported by LJMU’s Performance Sport team, at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, have received national recognition for their achievements.
LJMU has been a proud delivery site for the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) for more than 15 years. The annual TASS Stars Awards recognise athletes across five categories, and LJMU supported athletes were shortlisted in three out of five categories in the 2022 awards, the most to have reached the finals from LJMU since the awards inception.
At a ceremony in Birmingham, during TASS’s Commonwealth Games takeover, LJMU were delighted to find out that two of the three shortlisted athletes had won their categories.
Most Inspirational Winner: Rainbow Mbuangi - Para Football
Awarded to a TASS athlete who possesses infectious enthusiasm and a positive attitude, has shown creativity in their sport and study, and has demonstrated remarkable sportsmanship.
Liverpool’s Rainbow, 20, is a visually impaired athlete who plays in the England Blind Football squad. He is supported at LJMU through the TASS programme. From a sporting perspective, Rainbow has already represented England at multiple major sporting events and was part of the squad that won bronze in the 2022 IBSA Blind Football European Championships. Rainbow is now aiming to be selected for the 2023 World Cup squad.
Away from being a footballer, Rainbow continues to be an inspiration to others having spoken to the House of Lords National Plan for Sport and Recreation Committee about developing para sport in the UK. He’s also founded a charity - Sightbox - which visits schools and universities to coach different blind sports. Rainbow will begin his degree at UCLAN in September, further showcasing his dedication to developing para sport alongside his elite sporting career.
Most Potential Winner: Olivia Holmes – Boxing
Awarded to a TASS athlete who is deemed to be a “one to watch” in the future in either their sport or study.
Merseyside-born Olivia, 20, is a boxer who competes in the women’s 54kg category and trains at the esteemed Rotunda ABC Boxing Club in Liverpool. Olivia is supported via the Talented Athletes Scholarship scheme at LJMU where she accesses sport science services such as strength and conditioning, nutrition, performance lifestyle and psychology support.
At the end of 2021, she won gold in the 54kg category at the English Senior Elite Boxing Championship (formerly the ABA Championship), the first senior competition that she was able qualify for. Olivia most recently competed in the U22 European Championships in Croatia and secured an impressive bronze medal. As a result of her medal success, Olivia was selected for the Great Britain Boxing Academy Squad, which is a huge next step in her sporting career.
Most Committed on Final Shortlist: Alex Eckley - Rugby League
Awarded to a TASS athlete who has shown dedication to both study and sport, including excellent time management and efficiency in balancing demands.
Alex currently plays professional rugby league at North Wales Crusaders based in Colwyn Bay, Wales. Alongside this, Alex is an LJMU MSc Strength and Conditioning student and Sport Scholar also supported by TASS.
Alex was previously an academy player with St Helens R.F.C. and was selected to represent the England Universities qquad who won the 2022 Tri-Nations Cup. Alongside playing professional rugby league and studying on a full time masters degree programme, Alex captained the LJMU Rugby League squad to one of their most successful years ever, going unbeaten in the British University Championship league with a strong campaign in the cup.
Dave McDermott, Head of Elite Sport & Athlete Management, said: “Everyone at LJMU is incredibly proud of both Rainbow and Olivia for winning such prestigious awards, and Alex for beating such tough competition to also be shortlisted.
“It is testament to the athletes, their coaches and the whole LJMU team, that their combined efforts resulted in the highest number of nominations we’ve ever made for the awards. Then to have three individuals shortlisted and two announced as winners, we couldn’t be happier. Each athlete has reached elite sporting level while progressing in their academic endeavours.”