At the BUCS National Championships in Sheffield last weekend, the University of Glasgow reigned victorious as three of its athletes swept to victory. Fighting off competition from a wide range of universities from across the UK, they had to display an incredible amount of determination to win. But, just what drove them to victory? The Guardian caught up with them to find out.
The three athletes in question were high jump champion Nikki Manson, badminton wizard Matthew Carder and Courtney Flanders who rose to new heights in the trampolining. Currently ranked second in Scotland at women’s high jump, Manson performed a successful 1,78 cm jump, 3 cm ahead of her nearest competitor Kate Anson from Manchester University. In men’s badminton, Carder, who shares Manson’s ranking in his own sport, secured a mesmerising 8-21 24-22 21-13 victory, winning two sets of three after being well behind in the first set of his final match. And Courtney Flanders, after only two years of experience, came first with 48 points in total at BUCS4 level in men’s trampolining.
Biomedical engineering student Nikki Manson had hoped to break her personal best of 1,80 m at BUCS, but got two centimetres short of that. She says she went in as a favourite, which was a new situation for her and added to pre-game nerves. She also didn’t do that well in her first jump, which wasn’t the first time round.
“People always say, you cannot count Nikki out until the last jump”, she says. “I was technically behind and then did a good jump”.
In terms of what helped her stay focused, she says her parents were there to support. “They were telling me I should enjoy it and that I was jumping well. Also my friends were there and pulling faces at me, trying to make me relax a little bit.”
And she wasn’t the only successful Glasgow representative on the day, as our very own Matthew Carder fought his way back from the clutches of defeat to Alex Marritt to avenge his defeat in last year’s tournament. Whilst last year’s defeat was devastating, this year’s victory was pulsating. In what was described as one of the best badminton matches that some of the crowd had seen , Carder somehow managed to keep his nerve to secure the win.
“I had pretty much accepted defeat, which kept me relaxed”, Carder comments. “I decided to give one last ditch of effort, taking each point as it came, and not thinking about winning the set, just focusing on each rally”. He says his opponent is known for having lost games after taking the lead. “So if I held my bottle I knew I could still win. I kept my speed in the third game and once I got a lead, there was no way of him coming back.”
Carder, who flies over to Germany each month to play abroad and has three caps for Scotland, says BUCS shouldn’t be downplayed. “It is a great feeling knowing you are the best player in Britain at university. It is always nice to win a tournament, represent the university and do them proud.” Says the final year anatomy student. “Looking at maybe doing masters so I can defend my title”, he cheekily adds.
Courtney Flanders, who unlike Carder and Manson hasn’t been involved in his sport from a young age, is also very satisfied with his performance on the trampoline.
“I think I performed the best I ever have”, Flanders says. “The panel of judges I had was very experienced, as is required at BUCS. I got the highest scores I’ve ever got at a competition.”
Flanders started trampolining in 2013 when he moved over from London to start University and study history and politics. He is now Secretary of the University Trampoline Club. But why is the sport just so appealing to him?
“At university level at least you can join with no experience at all, which makes it very accessible”, he remarked. “Watching some of the skills that other people could do made me want to do the same.”
And through the trials and tribulations in which all of these top athletes have had to endure during the championships one really does wonder just what keeps them going. Is the will to win really that much of a factor?
“The reason I love the sport I think is because it’s a sport with so much freedom”, Carder says about badminton. “The possibilities are endless and there are always parts to training that can be fun” Describing his own ‘competitive nature’, he dreams of compositing in the Commonwealth Games of Gold Coast in 2018.
“The sense of accomplishment is addictive. There is nothing better than winning.”
Manson says she couldn’t really imagine a life without sport. “I enjoy working hard and training”, she says. “There were times when I was doing my highers for example, when I was still competing but didn’t necessarily think about winning. But since then my competitiveness has come back. And obviously everyone wants to win.”
Like her compatriot, she also fosters ambitions to appear down under. Having just missed out on playing in her home tournament in 2014, it is not unrealistic that she considers this a manageable target.
Flanders also says doing well means a lot to him. “Since I started I’ve been quite successful so I feel a pressure to do well just to maintain it.” And with all the extra time and effort he finds himself putting in, he is always hoping to improve. “It adds pressure for all the extra effort to be worth it.”