Pouring rain did little to hamper the mood at the annual Oxford Athletics Cuppers on Sunday, with students doing their best to provide a ray of sunshine amid the darkened skies.
Ultimately, Keble took top honours in the college stakes with 173 points to St John’s 106, and 36 cuppers standards were achieved by a total of 53 athletes. with the afternoon providing a useful warm up for many dark blues ahead of Varsity later in the year.
Standout performances came from last year’s BUCS 4x400m bronze medallist George Grundle (St Johns) who stretched his legs over 400m to win in 51.9s, while his medal-winning teammate Adam McBraida (Jesus) won the 200m by five seconds in 27.1s.
Louis Gardner (Lady Margaret Hall) impressed to take the 800m title in 2:05.7, whilst Ian Shevlin (St Catherines) was the only man sub-12 in the 100m, clocking 11.9s.
In the field, triple jumper Sam Trigg (Worcester) tried his hand at high jump, taking victory with 1.75m, while Tom Cross (Kellogg) won the javelin with 37.16m.
On the women’s side, Emily Stone showed her potential as a sprinter, taking the 100m in 13.6, before showing her versatility with 5.02m in the long jump and 24.42m in the javelin.
Stone, of Hertford, ended up as the top-scoring female athlete, racking up an impressive 83 points, while it was Justin Leung of Keble who took the men’s honour with 50 points.
In what were treacherous conditions for hurdling, Heli Copley (Keble) played a valuable role in helping her college to win the competition, by claiming maximum points in the 100m in 18.8s., with Christina Nick (Pembroke) winning the discus with 26.54m.
Even more exciting is that Oxford has many more blues and new athletes to strengthen the dark blue contingent in time for Varsity and BUCS.
[caption id="attachment_40761" align="alignright" width="300"] The bronze medal-winning 4×400 team[/caption]
BUCS Athletics is a major event in the OUAC calendar, second only to the Varsity Matches. It is also one of the largest athletics events in the calendar with hundreds of athletes competing for their universities. As always the specialist sporting universities dominated but there was still some glory to be had for Oxford.
Pride of place to the Oxford 4×4 team who won a bronze medal, narrowly losing the silver in an epic battle with Cardiff Metropolitan by 0.04 seconds. The team, composed of Adam McBraida, George Gundle, Ralph Eliot and Sam Wareham (Craig Morten ran in the heats) smashed the Oxford record set in last year’s BUCS Final by running 3.15.27 – likely to end the year as one of the fastest 15 teams in the whole country.
Despite falling in the Water Jump during his heat Will Mycroft also won Bronze in the 3000m Steeplechase, taking advantage of his opponent’s error at the final Water Jump to steal ahead for third place and make himself comprehensive favourite for that event at Varsity on May 18th.
Other strong performances came from Sam Hitchings with a breakthrough performance to go over 40m in the Hammer for the first time for 8th place, Aidan Reynolds less happy with his 8th in the Javelin served to demonstrate his high expectations, Simone Paulson working hard for 6th in the Women’s 10000 and Tom Frith making a loaded 1500m final where he managed 10th against some very fine competition.
Overall it was a good performance from the team with the men narrowly outscoring Cambridge on BUCS points with that magnificent 3rd in the final 4×4. Men’s Captain Daniel Hooker commented: ‘there were obviously some standout performances for Cambridge to take note of but we were very solid across the board and it is that team effort that wins Varsity Matches as we aim to do in Cambridge on May 18th.’
PHOTO / Ralph Eliot
Last Saturday Oxford University Athletics club travelled to Lee Valley Athletics centre to compete against Cambridge in the annual FEAR match (Field Events and Relays). The match is considered to be a major point in the build-up to the Varsity match next term. Unlike Varsity it is very much a team event and the scoring system differs greatly. Four athletes are entered for each event. Each athlete’s highest, longest, or fastest effort is combined to give a cumulative score. For example the team with the highest combined long jump or furthest combined shot put wins that event. The emphasis is very much on the team ethos, rather than individual glory of the Varsity match. FEAR is separated into four separate competitions: Men’s and Women’s field, and Men’s and women’s track.
Oxford’s day got off to the best possible start with convincing wins in the Men’s Javelin and Men High Jump. On both occasions it was fresher Aidan Reynolds who made the difference. In the Javelin he threw a mammoth 63.32 meters to comfortably secure a Blues standard and go 3rd on the Oxford all-time list. Barely fifteen minutes later he notched up his second Blues standard in the high jump, leaping 1.95 meters to see off a strong Cambridge line up. However, Cambridge fought back in the field, winning the Shot Put as well as the Triple Jump, despite the best efforts of Sam Trigg who jumped an impressive Blues standard of 14.11 meters. The Cambridge fight back ultimately meant that the Men’s field match was drawn 4-4. Unfortunately, the Oxford Women were slightly less successful in the field, much of this down to the light blues bosting an international high jumper amongst their ranks. An impressive dark blue victory in the Pole Vault was a highlight, but the women eventually went down 5-3.
This loss was to be the only major loss of the day however. On the track, the Dark Blue men utterly blew Cambridge away. The major highlights of track day came in men’s 4x200m race, where the Oxford squad set a blistering match record. On the women’s track Nadine Prill also made history by setting a new match record in the 60m with a time of 7.94. Ultimately the Oxford men brought it home with a 5-1 win with the Oxford women drawing 3-3. Although there is no overall trophy awarded on the day, the overall cumulative score for the entire day was Oxford 15-13 Cambridge. This score-line reflects a highly successful day of shoeing for OUAC who will be hoping they can carry such momentum forward into the varsity match next term.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="369"] Usain Bolt (image credit: Daily Mirror)[/caption]
Despite writing an earlier article for the Oxford Student heavily critical of much of the politics and decisions surrounding the London 2012 Olympics, I had very little against the sporting events themselves. Granted, I’m not especially fond of competitive individualism, but watching extremely talented and hard-working people perform the sports they love was invigorating. Bradley Wiggins’ two-wheeled triumphs even partially inspired me to embark on a cycling expedition to North Wales. (I actually got as far as North Witney and camped in a field before returning to Cowley aboard a bus.)
It was therefore extremely disappointing to find politics thrust into athletics negatively yet again, with the news that five-times world champion Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt appears to consider himself an expert on UK tax law. Bolt, who earns around £12.7million per year, has decided to boycott performing in Britain until tax laws are loosened. His complaint? As well as taking a cut of his winnings in the UK, Revenue and Customs also wanted a percentage of his £12.5m sponsorship deal with Puma. He only agreed to run in London due to a competitors’ tax amnesty for 2012, after three years of prior refusal to run in this country, and pulling out of 2010’s Grand Prix over his political position on taxation.
Remember how angry the great British public was when Tory grandee Lord Ashcroft was ploughing money into offshore accounts, claiming non-domiciled status? Or Philip Green and his £2.4bn tax dodge? Perhaps the worst was the case with Vodafone, who were essentially let off from £6bn worth of taxation by Hartnett at HMRC, in a case broken by Private Eye which reeked of a Berlusconian level of corruption. This is, we need barely be reminded, in the midst of entrenched and crushing austerity, where due to a supposed lack of state funding, ordinary citizens are losing everything from their pensions to sickness benefit to youth centres to hospitals to jobs under a swathe of crippling cutbacks. In light of this, it hardly seems that HMRC is the most stringent on taxation at all. Indeed, proposals in 2011 were made to undertake perhaps the largest corporate tax cut in UK history, whereby companies would be exempt from paying any contributions on foreign earnings. (Under the initial system, if Company A pays, say 5% tax in Country A, and the UK tax rate was 10%, it would have to pay HMRC another 5% from its foreign earnings to meet the total.) This is despite the 4% corporation tax cut already implemented -money that could have protected vital public services. There is no salient evidence to suggest that the British private sector has even particularly grown off the back of this cut. The phrase ‘government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich’, becomes ever more apparent.
Yet this is about Usain Bolt, not a general list of grievances against austerity and tax law. The point is that Green, Ashcroft and his ilk are in essence no different from Bolt in the sentiment they express. In a fair society, you do not get tax breaks for being rich, famous, and being able to run round a track almost as fast as your money does when escaping to the Cayman Islands. One should really expect no more from a competitive, ruthless individualist, yet I couldn’t help but be disappointed by Bolt’s assertions after having no small degree of respect for his athletic achievements. The reality is, his sponsorship earnings are part of his income. If he is competing on UK soil, as part of an event which in the case of London 2012 has cost the British taxpayer up to £24billion along with a raft of state oppression and house clearances, there is no reason why the public should not be able to recoup some of the profit from the Games. As the glow of the closing ceremony closes, it becomes ever more apparent that we are not going to have a sporting renaissance. School playing fields are being cut back, and youth services around the country have lost their ability to offer sporting provision. It is no surprise that the majority of Team GB were privately-educated and had access to world-class sporting facilities. Yet I doubt Bolt is concerned with, or has even really considered, the repercussions of loosened tax laws. He evidently seems far more concerned with retaining more money than he is likely to ever spend. So much for ‘sport for sport’s sake.’ HMRC’s position is hardly draconian in any case- as one official told the Telegraph, ‘”The Government put in place a tax exemption so that non-resident Olympic and Paralympic athletes would not pay UK tax on their income from Olympic and Paralympic appearances…Any tax on other UK income such athletes receive can in most cases be set off against tax paid in their home country.”
So, Bolt has once again exiled himself from our shores. It really is no great loss, one can watch him on TV from Rio de Janeiro just as simply as they could from East London. Maybe another runner will compete, win, and actually not mind too much about putting something back in to the system they have benefitted from. Yes, Bolt is very talented at what he does. That, however, does not hand him carte blanche to do as he wishes and pursue his own greed and self-interest at the expense of others. Bolt should take his self-imposed exile to have a long and serious think about the repercussions of his statements. In the meantime, we have Mo Farah to watch.
With the London Olympic and Paralympic games right around the corner, time is running out for Oxonian athletes looking to compete on this hallowed stage. When he’s not penning his history essays, Christ Church second-year Daniel Hooker is out on the Iffley Road track in a bid to qualify for London 2012.
This summer we could be seeing Daniel represent Great Britain in the 100m, 200m or long jump in the Paralympic tournament. He has two limbs which are affected by cerebral palsy and although he played squash for his school team in sixth form, he realised that disabled sport would allow him to race at the highest level.
‘At 15 you realise, this game’s not fair,’ Daniel commented. ‘I’m the sort of person where I want to be the best at everything – I’m just competitive like that. Once I knew I was in a fair game I wanted to be the best.’
This motivation has driven him to within touching distance of the upcoming games. Daniel is well on top of his training and is close to reaching the qualification standards. He said, ‘In the gym where I have most of the numbers to look at I’m now where expected to be in maybe a month.
‘I haven’t had any injuries – I think I’ve only missed one training session so far which is obviously really positive.’
Daniel’s aim is to shave almost forty seconds off his 100m time and jump half a meter further – goals which are ‘not impossible’.
‘I definitely think I’m a contender for London,’ he argued. ‘I’ve got the B standards in 100m and the long jump – I’ll need the A at least but I’m in the ball park where its realistic to think that I could do it.’
He has already raced at Gateshead and Crystal Palace – Britain’s two premier athletics venues – and believes that competing in the Olympic Stadium would ‘be that times five.’
‘This is what you train for. You get your name up on the big screen, you get announced over the loudspeaker at the start,’ he added. ‘You feel like you’ve made it.’
Regardless of his improvements on the track, it’s likely Daniel will get a run out at the Stratford arena in the next few months. He admitted, ‘There’s a test event which I’ve been invited to, so I’m hoping that I’ll get the chance to see it before the big thing whatever happens with qualification.’
While London would be an incredible experience, it is the 2016 games in Rio which Daniel is targeting for medal success.
‘I’ve made a pact with myself that I’ll go through to Rio,’ he said. ‘I’ll be 24, I’ll be in my prime – if I haven’t won medals by then , it’s never really going to happen so I’ll move on in my life.’
Nevertheless he remained optimistic about his chances, adding, ‘Hopefully I’ll have just won a Paralympic title and I’ll be preparing to win another one!’
Although he believes there aren’t too many avenues to become wealthy in Paralympic sport, Daniel is keen to have a career in athletics. He said, ‘It won’t be very well paid and it’ll be until you’re 35 but I would love to do it – getting paid to jump into a sand pit every day sounds like a lot of fun!’
If the sporting side doesn’t work out for him, Daniel’s backup plan is to work as a lawyer or a civil servant. He hasn’t ruled out coaching either – he currently helps with the training of other athletes at Oxford.
Despite the stress of the degree, Daniel still maintains a good work-life balance. He enjoys his social life with his fellow competitors while keeping on top of his weekly deadlines. Above all however, it is his love of athletics which spurs him on. He professed, ‘I came into the athletics because it was the big Paralympic sport, but it’s just good fun jumping into a sand pit for a long way!’
The 137th Varsity Athletics match took place on Saturday 21st May at Wilberforce Road, Cambridge under glorious blue skies. The dominant blue of the day, however, was Light rather than Dark, as the match unfortunately resulted in a convincing home victory for Cambridge. The Oxford team was defeated in the men’s and women’s blues and seconds matches by a group of highly talented Light Blues, but there were nevertheless some truly outstanding Oxford performances.
The Oxford performance of the day came in the Women’s Blues match from Clara Blattler, competing in the pole vault. Blattler vaulted 3.50 to break the match record and earn herself the Best Field Performance award on the day. But her Varsity Match was far from over as Blattler also won the 400m hurdles, came second in 100m hurdles, third in both the long and triple jump and also performed admirably in the relay.
The 800m was also a successful event for Oxford. Following Blattler’s example were Rachel Deegan and the Club’s inspirational president Catriona Witcombe, who took first and second, respectively. Catriona equalled Clara by competing in six events on the day and she displayed her all round athletic ability in each of them. If ever there was an example set of how to lead a team in adversity, then it was Witcombe’s. There were two further wins in the Womens Blues match, in the 5000m for Hayley Munn and in the Javelin for Katie Braham.
In the Men’s Blues match Oxford were dominant in the middle- and long-distance track events, as befits the famous heritage that includes, of course, Roger Bannister, the first man to break four minutes for the mile back in 1954. Some of the Bannister spirit seemed to have journeyed to Cambridge with the side, as Chris McGurk looked in supreme form in winning the 1500m. McGuirk was ably backed up by talented fresher, Tom Frith, who took 2nd in the same race. Luke Caldwell took the win with a strong last lap in the 5000m, an achievement all the more impressive given that he had been third in a hotly contested, fast paced 800m earlier in the day.
The Oxford sprinters and field eventers battled hard all day but were generally outclassed by their Cambridge counterparts. One exception to this was Laurent Stephenson from Balliol, who won the Javelin with a phenomenal personal best throw of 52.34m.
Eloise Waldon-Day was awarded the trophy for Second Team Performance of the day for her strong performances in the 400m, 200m hurdles, 400m hurdles, high jump, pole vault, discus, javelin and shot put.
It may have been noted by readers that several athletes competed in multiple events and this is indicative of a lack of strength in depth across the board. This was not helped by the withdrawal of several of Oxford’s very best athletes at the last minute due to injury and ineligibility.
With the British Universities championships being held at the new Olympic stadium in London next summer, the Athletics Club will look to recruit some talented new athletes across all events to bolster the side for the Varsity match next year.
Despite this year’s disappointment, the OUAC has a history of success which Cambridge are yet to match. Oxford still have the upper hand in the overall number of Men’s Blues matches, with 73 wins versus Cambridge’s 56. That said, it will take a serious effort to overhaul the worrying trend that is beginning to develop, with Cambridge taking the win in the last three years. It is though, a challenge that Oxford are certainly capable of succeeding in when the match returns home to fortress Iffley next year.