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Meet the University of Bristol sporting stars going for gold

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Mills, who sailed to gold at Rio 2016, has been chosen to carry the British flag at the Olympic opening ceremony alongside gold medal-winning rower Mohamed Sbihi.

The 33-year-old Mechanical Engineering graduate, who will be defending her women’s 470 title alongside Eilidh McIntyre in Tokyo, said being chosen was the greatest moment of her career:

“To be asked to carry the flag for Team GB at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is not a sentence I ever thought I’d say. When I was told it was completely overwhelming and when I had a moment to think about what it meant I got pretty emotional.”

In 2019, Mills launched the Big Plastic Pledge, which aims to eliminate single-use plastics from sport, while last year she was chosen to be a European Climate Pact Ambassador.

She’s joined in Team GB by fellow medallist Tom Mitchell, 33, who captained Great Britain to Rugby 7s silver in Rio, when the sport made its Olympic debut. Tom, who didn’t start playing at a high level until he was at university, where he graduated with a 2.1 in English and Philosophy in 2011, has hailed his players’ resilience after they overcame challenging odds to remain on track for another Olympic title bid.

Long jumper Jazmin Sawyers is hoping to improve on her 8th place finish on her debut at the Rio Olympics in 2016, just weeks after she graduated with a 2.1 in Law. The keen singer, 27, who has also appeared on The Voice, enters the Games in fine form having recorded a 6.90m personal best in California in June 2021 and followed up by retaining her British crown.

Heading to his third Olympics is 110m hurdler Andrew Pozzi, a MSc Management graduate. The 29-year-old reached the 110m hurdles semi-finals at Rio 2016 and has since tasted gold medal success on the international stage by winning the 60m hurdles at the 2018 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham. Silver at the 2021 European Indoors demonstrated fine form ahead of Tokyo as he looks to be among the medal contenders.

Rower Angus Groom will once again represent Team GB in the men’s quadruple skulls. The 29-year-old, who completed a Masters in Stem Cells and Regeneration in 2018, was part of the four-man crew who came fifth in Rio. He joins Britain’s 45-strong rowing team as they bid to enter the record books.

Heading to Tokyo for the Paralympics, which get underway on 24 August, is Law graduate Dan Bethell, who will compete in the badminton – which is being included in the games for the first time. The 25-year-old’s badminton career is blossoming and his SL3 World Championship silver back in 2019 means he’ll be aiming for a podium finish in Tokyo.

Dan will be joined at the Paralympics by triathlete Michael Taylor, 25, who has just completed the first year of his medical degree. Michael, a two-time GBR Paratriathlon national champion and fresh from winning gold at World Triathlon Para Cup last month, is taking part in the para-triathlon PTS4.

Many of the athletes competing in Tokyo have been part of the University of Bristol’s Performance Squad, a programme designed to support talented athletes’ dual career aspirations during their time at university, helping them to balance academic work and sporting commitments.

Matt Paine, Performance Sport Manager at the University, said:

“It’s really exciting to have so many students past and present competing in Tokyo. We’re hugely proud of their achievements so far, especially given the year-long delay caused by the pandemic.

“Past and present University of Bristol students won a total of three medals at Rio 2016 and five medals at London 2012, which was a huge achievement, so fingers crossed for similar success in Tokyo this summer.”

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