Finals and Olympian feats

July 19, 1996

The Olympic Games in Atlanta will be the second major event of the summer for several British competitors, after their degree finals.

Eight-hundred-metre runner Diane Modahl managed to combine her fight for reinstatement after a controversial drugs ban with working for a media studies degree at University College, Warrington - a Manchester University affiliate. "It was like winning a medal after a long hard race," she said after receiving her degree.

Her 5,000 metres colleague Paula Radcliffe will be delighted if Atlanta goes anything like as well as her modern European studies degree at Loughborough, completed with first-class honours.

Eight Loughborough alumni will be competing for Britain, while nine members of the physical education, sports science and recreation management department will be attending in other roles including coaching, psychology and judging.

The British Universities Sports Association estimates that 35 - about 10 per cent - of the British team in Atlanta are current or just-graduated higher education students. Sports with particular concentrations include rowing, where Rupert Obholzer and Tim Foster of University College London will join the Searle brothers, gold medallists last time in the coxed pairs, in the four-man event.

Manchester University supplies two swimmers, Graham Smith and James Hickman. Bristol University's Nick Neland is widely tipped as the likeliest successor to Loughborough graduate Steve Backley as Britain's top javelin thrower.

Three of the University of Surrey's five East European sports scholars will be in Atlanta. Lithuanian Nerijus Beiga, will swim in the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke and the relay. Mr Beiga, 24, has done the first year of a two-year masters course in European studies. Romanian fencer Gabriel Pantelimon is taking the same course while his team-mate in the epee event, Dan Petrescu is on a master in business administration programme.

"The programme has gone extremely well, with the students making terrific progress academically and as athletes. Our sponsors Rank Xerox have agreed to fund five more places next year," said Jim Riordan, professor of Russian and organiser of the scholarship scheme.

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