Two University of Portsmouth sportsmen have been selected for Great Britain to take part in the 2017 World University Winter Games in Kazakhstan.
Laurence Willows, a member of the England ski cross team, a former England champion and ranked first in Britain, and Elliott Dewey, captain of the England ice hockey team, will compete next month alongside about 3,000 sportsmen and women from 50 countries.
The World University Winter Games is held every two years and is the biggest winter multi-sports event in the world for student athletes.
Laurence, 20, from south east London, is studying BSc economics, finance and banking. He has skied since the age of two, has competed in four junior world championships and is a former England dry slope champion.
He is one of the University’s sports scholars, so receives financial and other help to ensure he can compete at top level.
Laurence said: “I really hope to be able to step up and make it to the quarter finals. To be in the top ten would be a dream, but just to make it through to the top 16 would be great.
“Support from the University, including sport psychology, for elite athletes has really helped. It’s great to be representing my country and long term, my aim is to make it to the 2022 Olympics, although I don’t like to look too far ahead. At this stage, I will take each season as it comes.
“It was always a dream when I was younger, watching skiing stars on television that one day I could possibly make it to an Olympic Games. I want to continue competing for as long as possible, especially while I have this support at university.”
Elliott, 19, from Basingstoke, is studying sport and exercise science. Captain of the England ice hockey team and NHL cup champion, he has played defence for nine years, the last four, for England. He has won numerous junior leagues championships.
Elliott isn’t yet a sports scholar, but the University has helped pay for his fares to Kazakhstan so he can compete and has given him free access to the sports facilities to train. He is guaranteed a place on next year’s sports scholarship scheme.
Paul Tilley, head of sport and recreation at the University said he was delighted and proud the University had not just one, but two competitors in the Winter Games.
“England isn’t the best at developing winter sports champions and so it’s a double celebration that at one university we have helped nurture two world class winter sportsmen. I am thrilled for them and we will all be cheering them both on.”
The University’s sports scholar programme is open to 20 talented students a year. It includes financial help towards equipment, competition and training; physiotherapy screening; a personal mentor to liaise with academic staff; free access to all sports facilities; specialist strength and conditioning facilities and programmes; free physiotherapy; and free membership of the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS).
Lauren Steadman, who won silver at this year’s Paralympics for triathlon in Brazil, is a fellow sports scholar at Portsmouth. In 2008, sports scholar Dan Bentley won gold in the Paralympics in Beijing, and bronze in the 2012 Paralympics in London, both for boccia.
The World University Winter Games run from January 29 to February 8.