Alumni Olympians ready for Rio

Alumni Olympians ready for Rio

Four athletes with a University of Aberdeen connection are preparing to make their mark in Brazil when the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games get underway in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

Alan Sinclair will represent Team GB in rowing, while Neil Fachie and Karen Darke will be part of the Paralympics GB cycling team. Benjamin Jesson, a shooter, will take part in the Paralympic rifle events.

Alan, from Inverness, studied medicine, and trained at the University with support from a sports bursary from the Development Trust.  He will be competing in the men’s pair at Rio, an event that he has already enjoyed success in this year when he won silver at the European Championships.

Neil, from Bridge of Don, studied Physics and trained at the University as a track and field sprinter coached by the current Performance Athletics Coach Eddie McKenna.  His move into cycling came towards the end of his University career, and his performances in the velodrome at the London 2012 Olympics saw him pick up gold and silver medals.

Neil was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to para-cycling, and he also received an honorary degree from the University later that year.

Since then he has won a clutch of gold and silver medals in various events, including at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and travels to Rio having recently won gold in the Tandem B sprint and kilo events at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Italy.

Karen Darke, who lives in Inverness, completed her PhD in Geology at the University in the 1990s and received an honorary degree in 2013 in recognition of her charitable work.

A keen mountaineer, Karen was paralysed in a rock-climbing accident on a Scottish sea cliff at the age of 21 and since then has worked tirelessly to raise money for charity, undertaking many feats of endurance including a crossing of the Indian Himalaya by hand-cycle and a 600km traverse of the Greenland ice cap.

As a competing hand cyclist, her achievements include winning two Silver Medals at the 2011 Para-Cycling World Cup in Sydney and a Silver Medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the Women's H1-2 time trial.

Since London 2012 Karen has continued to be a consistent fixture on the podium at international events with the highlight being her performance at the 2014 road world championships in Greenville, USA where she picked up a silver medal in the H3 time-trial and bronze in the H3 road race.

Rio will be Benjamin Jesson’s second taste of the Olympics, after taking part in the Mixed R6–50 m rifle prone SH1 at London 2012.

Graduating from the University with a degree in Marine Biology, he was inspired to take up shooting after coming across the Aberdeen University Rifle Club at a Fresher’s Fayre.

At the age of 15, Benjamin was diagnosed with Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease a hereditary nervous system disorder, which caused foot drop in both of his feet.

After finishing 47th in London, he achieved a personal best at the 2013 European Championships, finishing in the top 15. In 2015 at the IPC Shooting World Cup in Croatia, he finished 9th in the R6 Mixed 50m rifle prone SH1 gaining a quota slot for the 2016 Paralympics.

Donald Pirie, Head of Sport at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The University of Aberdeen has a long and proud tradition of students and alumni who have achieved sporting success and Karen, Alan, Neil and Benjamin are the latest example of athletes with a University connection who have gone on to represent their country in Olympic and international competition.

“We are immensely proud of what they have achieved in their careers, and look forward to cheering them on in Rio.”