Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

And the Gold for Sporting Achievement Goes to ..: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

And the Gold for Sporting Achievement Goes to ..: Fe News

Article excerpt

Loughborough adds to Olympic success with new elite centre.

It produced 25 of the athletes in Britain's greatest Olympic team and four of the Paralympians. But it is not a luxurious private school, it is a general FE college in Leicestershire.

Despite educating nearly three times the number of Olympians as Millfield School, its nearest rival, Loughborough College is not resting on its laurels. Next week, it will open its unique Elite Athlete Performance Centre, which will offer residential education for up to 100 students aged between 16 and 18, tailored to fit around the demands of elite sports training.

The opening will mark the culmination of more than a decade's work for Jim Mutton, the college's principal, who retires this month. He first had the idea for the Pounds 4 million centre after France's victory at the 1998 Fifa World Cup. This was widely attributed to the influence of elite academies such as the one in Clairefontaine that produced Thierry Henry.

"I seriously wondered why we didn't have the same thing for young people in this country," Mr Mutton said. "Steve Cram had been calling out for something similar, and you'd hear about Kenyan youngsters who went to running camps at 12 or 13."

Loughborough already had some big sporting advantages. The town is filled with top coaches, as national sport associations have moved to be close to the experts at Loughborough University. This in turn has helped the college to attract elite athletes such as swimmer Liam Tancock, many of the Team GB women's football side, hockey bronze medallist Nicola White and Robbie Grabarz, who took bronze in the high jump. These current and former students have studied a range of courses at the college, from A levels to degrees in sports science.

For the past four years, Loughborough has employed Chris McGeorge as its elite athlete education and welfare officer, and he will oversee the new centre. Its first students will be the rising stars identified by Volleyball England, and the college hopes that other sporting bodies will follow suit.

A former runner who won a gold medal in the 1,500m event at the World University Games, Mr McGeorge moved into teaching and now uses his experience at boarding schools to help teenagers adjust to a newly independent life in halls of residence.

"We get two types: low-maintenance and high-maintenance," Mr McGeorge said. …

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