“Representing your country at any level is an honour and it should not be denied to the athletes with the opportunity to do so,” are the words of former Bath University Athletics Captain and current Cardiff Metropolitan (formerly UWIC) student Chris Wakeford, who is reacting to UK Athletics’ (UKA) decision to not send a Great Britain athletics team to the World University Games this summer in Kazan.
Athletes and university students are today being urged to sign a petition in reaction to UKA’s decision to not attend the biannual event, one of the biggest multisport competitions in the world with 22 sports and 150 nations taking part in the 2011 edition in Shenzhen, China.
UKA, who have a large base here at Loughborough University, cite competition clashes with the World under 18, European under 20 and European under 23 championships as the reason for their decision, viewing these competitions as “more appropriate competitions for these age groups.”
While Wakeford doesn’t contest this point of view, at 23 years old, he isn’t eligible for any of the aforementioned championships. His belief therefore, is that the World University Games presents older students “a platform to gain international honours on a world stage and use it as a stepping stone to further athletic achievements.”
The petition, which has been set up by Student Representative on the BUCS Athletics Advisory Group member Steven Garrett, gives students the opportunity to voice their support for a motion asking UKA to reconsider their decision and allow a small team of athletes who are ineligible to compete at the European under 23 and under 20 championships to compete in the World University Games. Garrett set up the petition individually from BUCS and was not acting in his role as a member of the BUCS Advisory Group.
While Garrett has received “significant opposition to UKA’s decision from a variety of students, coaches and university staff across the country,” he fears that it may be too late to get an entry into the competition.
Nonetheless he remains hopeful that with enough support, a compromise with UKA can be reached and talks can begin with the organising committee for the event to allow a Great Britain athletics team into the competition.
Wakeford believes that if the petition is not successful in getting UKA to reverse their decision, then they should hand over responsibility directly to BUCS.
“Failing [UKA reversing their decision] it is my desire that it be handed over to BUCS to send a Great Britain team sanctioned by UK Athletics should they be unable to do so themselves in the event of staff and resources being committed to other competitions.
“BUCS will already have the support and infrastructure in place in that they shall be sending a large multisport team to these championships.”
A BUCS official told The Epinal that:
“BUCS have been in active negotiations with UKA regarding a potential entry to the World University Games 2013 since October 2011. The clash with three other age-group competitions became apparent later in 2011. UKA communicated their decision to us prior to our (internal) deadlines for entry in December 2012.
“An athletics entry to the World University Games 2013 is not possible without UKA support and funding, and is a moot point if the athletes in question are committed to other events in the same time frame.
“BUCS will liase with UK in Spring 2013 in respect of entries to the World University Games in 2015. BUCS have not asked UKA to reconsider their decision.”
Those in favour of UKA reversing their decision are urged to sign to the petition here.
As a student who falls into a similar group to Chris Wakeford, I was personally very disappointed by UKA’s decision to not take a team to the World University Games this year. I totally agree that the European age group championships are more appropriate competitions for these age groups like UKA state in their 2013 selection policy document, but my first question was ‘what about if you’re a student and you don’t fall into these age groups?’
The standards for the World University Games are around those required for the England Commonwealth Games team, so the team would be high quality, relatively small in number, and provide athletes the opportunity to compete against the best students in the world.
Michael Baker, Loughborough Students Athletic Captain 2009-11.