Sport

The Athletic Union Awards

The AU Ball is held every May to celebrate the very best the University of Nottingham’s sports clubs have to offer. The AU awards presented on the night are a chance to recognise both players and clubs who have excelled throughout the year. Impact caught up with some of the winners from the night…

Club Of The Year: Korfball

If you were to browse through the AU’s 70+ clubs for a BUCS-winning one, with ‘Gold’ award status and packed with international players, your first thought might not necessarily be of Korfball. Being named the Athletic Union’s ‘Club of the Year’ has been the recognition for, as their club’s President, Oliver Croad says, all their hard work: “From the very start of the year our committee has made a huge drive to make sure everyone who joined our club has found their own place, no matter what their ability”.

From being the hosts and winners of their BUCS national championships (which also won ‘Event of the Year’ at the awards), to setting up beginner tournaments at the start of the year, it’s clear ‘NUKorf’ are leading the way in terms of how a sports club at this university should work. They cater for all those who sign up and keep them coming throughout the year, rather than losing interest in new members once they’ve paid up their membership fees. Another factor that makes Korfball stand out is that it is a mixed sport, which according to James Cotterill, one of the club’s social secs, makes for a better atmosphere: “We’re not separate teams that just come together for socials, we’re teammates competing on the same court together, which I think means we respect each other more on a sporting level than the two sexes in some other clubs might. It’s also helped to form plenty of couples within our club!”

Though the increased chance of finding that special someone may well hold huge sway in persuading a curious fresher to join, however, it’s (probably) not the reason NUKorf was chosen by the AU as their ‘Club of the Year.’ Looking for a more likely reason, however, wouldn’t take very long.

Sportsman Of The Year: Andrew Widdison

Coming to the end of his term as President of the Squash Club, where a majority of its 200 members seek to play recreationally and without the rigours of constant competitive fixtures and intensive training, Andrew Widdison has had to play a careful balancing act this year. He has been required to make sure his club caters for all, whilst also ensuring their competitive side is of the highest possible standard.

This certainly seems to have been working, as under his guidance as Captain, the squash team have come second in their BUCS tournament two years in a row, and won their league with local Nottingham clubs that include many full-time professionals. On a more individual level, Andrew qualified for the Squash National Championships this year, where he came up against (and beat) several of the country’s top professionals. Many of these had the advantage of playing squash full-time without the balancing act of maintaining a degree, though for Andrew, being in full-time education may have ended up helping him: “After giving up on trying the sport professionally during my year before coming here, being at Nottingham and hitting Cr-Isis has allowed me to take pressure off myself,” he reveals, “when you look at the results, [it] may well have helped in my success!”

All of this has been achieved while Andrew has also coached the six competitive squash teams with the help of just one other (he remains hopeful the AU will find them professional coaching for after they graduate). With their girls’ team gaining promotion and 2nd team winning their own league, you could say that Andrew’s success has rubbed off on them – though he remains adamant that “they deserve all the credit”.

As graduation looms for Andrew, squash will still remain a huge part of his life. This is despite his disappointment that the sport lost its bid to become an Olympic sport in 2016, something he said “could have doubled” the money going into the English game. For now however, his time in the courts at Nottingham have been some of his finest years, and he’s delighted to have ended them with an AU award. “The best thing about the award is that playing and coaching squash here has been such a huge part of my three years here at Nottingham,” he says. “And as I’m about to graduate, it’s a great way to round off everything that’s happened.”

Sportswoman Of The Year: Katie Ambridge

When Impact sat down to interview Miss Ambridge, it was the third time in two years that we had done so. Last year’s interview was covering swimming Varsity when she was a fresher, with Ambridge tipped to be ‘one to watch’ by our writers. The second was in the build-up to the same fixture for this year’s series, where she spoke to us now as the Captain of the girl’s team. To now be discussing her recognition as the finest female athlete at the university represents a meteoric rise for the former GB Under-21 star.

Like squash or korfball, swimming is another sport that rarely ignites the student’s – let alone the public’s – imagination, barring the appearance of a big Olympic name such as Phelps or Adlington. But Ambridge is quite rightly bullish when professing the great qualities of her sport: “Yes swimming isn’t a glamorous sport, but to be honest, how many competitive sports are? I think there’s still a stigma that you have to be a ‘swimmer’ to join our team, though I’d say one of the best things about our team is that everyone is of a different standard, but they are treated in the same way”.

So with swimming’s reputation swiftly dealt with, we went on to discuss Ambridge’s achievements that have led her to this award. As Captain this year, Ambridge’s responsibilities have been to others within the club as well as her own, though despite the extra burden, she has achieved medals in every BUCS event that she’s competed in since coming to Nottingham. All this came while making the finals of the world swimming trials and competing for Great Britan in an under-21 competition in Canada. After hearing these successes from a student still yet to complete her second year, we are left wondering what Nottingham has done to deserve Katie Ambridge. For her though, with the support she’s had from coaches and teammates here, Ambridge wouldn’t have it any other way. “The swim team has been very supportive to my success,” she says. “I’d say it is the best thing about the club: how supportive we all are to each other during training and competition.”

And The Rest…

Presented halfway through the AU Ball, a night noted in the University’s social calendar as one of the final opportunities for clubs to partake in a night of debauchery before gruelling exam schedules take over, the AU Awards are a celebration of what its clubs and competitors have achieved over the course of the year. Among the biggest winners on the night were the men’s Table Tennis first team who were named ‘Team of the Year’ for winning their BUCS championships, as well as collecting five ‘Gold’ awards for their members. The Boat Club also found themselves with a clutch of golds, as their ‘Lightweight Men’s 8’s’ were also crowned BUCS champions this year. Amongst all the acknowledgment of university achievements, there was also the ‘Neil Desai’s Sporting Excellence Award’ for international recognition that was won by Jess Sylvester of swimming.

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