Credit: Finlay Strachan, Amy Craig, Amy Kennedy, Alastair Campbell, Gigi Slater, Frank Wu

BUCS Nationals 2024: Glasgow University’s ‘Ones to Watch’

By Claire Thomson

The spotlight will soon be on Sheffield for the 2024 BUCS Nationals (23-25 February), the largest annual multi-sport event in the UK. With six sports and over 4,000 students taking part, The Glasgow Guardian spoke to some of the student-athletes hoping for success. 

Finlay Strachan – Swimming

After unexpectedly qualifying for and competing against the fastest swimmers in the UK at the 2023 British Swimming Championships, fourth-year veterinary medicine student and current men’s swim captain Finlay Strachan has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve this year. “My main aim for BUCS Nationals is to qualify for the 2024 British Swimming Championships again, which this year are also the main selection meet for the Olympic Games,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of fast sprint sets and worked on improving my technique and stroke efficiency in training recently as well as competing at District level to practice my race preparation and routine ahead of the target competition. I’ve also spent less time in GUU, so hopefully that will help!”

Looking to break down the stereotype that swimming is an individual sport, Fin describes the support and atmosphere within the team, which he states is his favourite part of competing for Glasgow University Swimming and Waterpolo Club (GUSWPC), not failing to mention that the club are notorious for always being the loudest and most enthusiastic supporters at BUCS. He says some of his best memories come from racing in finals, something he hopes to do again this year. Yet, it is having the opportunity to train and race alongside his older brother that has given him the drive to succeed. “My brother has been a huge inspiration and motivator for me to continue to get faster,” he declares. “The rivalry between us has helped both of us to improve and kept me invested in the sport.” 

Hype song: You Could Be President – Theo Katzman

Advice for others wanting to try your sport: “Be prepared for early mornings and always smelling like chlorine”

Gigi Slater – Swimming

With a change to the programme for the 2024 British Swimming Championships excluding her main event, fifth-year student Gigi Slater has been forced to turn her attention at BUCS Nationals to the 100-metre breaststroke. It’s bittersweet as she counts down the days until her last BUCS: “My goal is to qualify for the final in the 50m breaststroke and to get as close to the British time in the 100m as I can, but I also want to enjoy my last BUCS,” she said. “I have been swimming and going to the gym as much as I can to practise for the 100m as it is not my main event but my only opportunity to swim at British, so I’ve been working on my weaknesses like my turns to try to improve it.”

Having stopped swimming at 14-years-old, Gigi was able to find a way to enjoy it again, but as she admits, it wouldn’t have been without the support of her teammates: “When I was younger, I swam for a small club and never had a huge sense of feeling part of a big team. At university, this has been the whole reason why I have enjoyed swimming so much. I wouldn’t be able to get through all the hard training sessions if I wasn’t with these people that spur you on and encourage you – being part of such a great team that are just as happy as you for your success and there when it doesn’t go as planned.”

Hype song: International Love – Pitbull (feat. Chris Brown) or Speed Drive – CharliXCX

Biggest inspiration: “Hannah Miley – I was much smaller than all the other girls I swam against and she made me realise I didn’t have to be super tall and built like a typical swimmer to do well and be successful at swimming.”

Frank Wu – Fencing

Not training for almost five years, first-year student Frank Wu has been working hard to achieve his goal of reaching the top eight at BUCS Nationals this year. He discusses his journey in the sport and the lessons that he learnt in order to continue to improve and balance his studies with his sport. “I realised early on that school work and training would conflict with each other, so in the beginning I spent almost all of my time training,” the fencer admitted. “Later, I discovered that this was just my reason for not studying. A top athlete is most likely also an excellent student. So I understand one thing: if you want to be an excellent athlete, you must first become an excellent student.”

While he is modest about his previous achievements, his passion for the sport and determination are almost unmatched as he clarifies: “My fencing results have always been mediocre. But I won’t stop until I can’t continue fencing anymore.” Frank is confident that it is his teammates who inspire him and help him to succeed as they have been able to build strong friendships and share aspirations.  

Advice for others wanting to try your sport: “Don’t rush when you first start. Spend more time on the basics”

Amy Craig – Badminton

First-year student Amy Craig will also have her first experience of BUCS Nationals this year and is optimistic about her chances of success, despite her worries that the standard can be very high. “When making goals for myself I generally try to approach it from a more performance-based perspective, rather than a results-oriented one,” she explains. “I’m approaching it more from that angle rather than having a specific round I would like to reach. As long as I deliver the best performance I feel capable of and set myself up for a good run, I’ll be happy.” As with all sports, preparation is crucial, with Amy choosing to work on short-term goals or areas of development that could help her tighten up her game for her upcoming tournaments. 

Having started competing in her first year of secondary school, the badminton player admitted that in her first two years of competing, she got knocked out in the first round of nearly every tournament that she played, yet it was her mum’s unwavering support that inspired her to continue playing and be able to live out one of her dreams of competing in the Scottish Open, an event she used to watch when she was younger. She said: “It’s so easy to get caught up in the here and now, and not appreciate how much I’ve developed and surpassed my own expectations, and playing at that competition, let alone achieving a win at that level, was a pretty stark reminder of how far I’ve come.” 

Motivational quote: “‘Dream, Believe, Achieve’ – it’s so cheesy, but if you say it ironically and often enough, it sometimes does the trick!”

How would your teammates/coaches describe you?: “Hardworking, enthusiastic, chatty”

Alastair Campbell – Badminton

Intending to squeeze in as much competitive match practice as possible on the run up to BUCS Nationals, men’s and mixed doubles player Alastair Campbell hopes to qualify for the main draw in both events with a target of reaching the round of 16. In potentially his last BUCS Nationals event as a fifth-year maths student, Alastair reflects on his highlights so far: “My biggest achievement in my sporting career has to be winning a bronze medal at the European U17 Team Championships for Scotland. The feeling of winning while representing my country in such a big tournament is definitely one of the best I’ve ever experienced.” But it is the Scottish Universities tournament in March that is his favourite part of competing for GU Badminton, emphasising the incredible environment. 

The badminton player wants to encourage others to try the sport, emphasising the fact that badminton is so easy to learn and play for fun with so many clubs in Scotland. His biggest inspiration, he says, is his coach Irene Blair, who has coached him since he was 10: “She has so much passion for the sport and at times could be unrelenting, but she has taught me so much about badminton and about life in general.” 

Motivational quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy. When we compare ourselves to others, we rob ourselves of our own happiness.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Hype song: Numb – Linkin Park

Amy Kennedy – Athletics 

After training six days a week over the winter, second-year heptathlete Amy Kennedy has a tough programme ahead of her at BUCS Nationals as she seeks to compete in seven different events over two days, as well as a relay with her teammates. With four track and two gym sessions a week to build a strong base, she is now working on sharpening up on her specific events to improve her current form at BUCS and hopefully win a medal. 

Described by her coaches and teammates as “a charismatic and energetic team player”, Amy enjoys being “surrounded by a supportive team that creates a sociable environment”. While she acknowledged that it can be difficult to balance training with studying, it has not stopped her from making an impression in the sport, as she reflects: “Achieving my first Scotland senior vest at age 17 was an incredible achievement, but captaining the Scotland U20 team has been the major highlight in my sporting career so far in an event, where I also won silver.” 

Motivational quote: “It’s a funny thing, the more I practise, the luckier I get.”

Advice for others wanting to try your sport: “Give it a go, there’s a lot to be learnt from starting a new sport”


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