A national Taekwondo champion and a member of the English Lacrosse youth team are among the sports star students who have secured prestigious sports scholarships from the University of Leicester.
A group of 17 talented students with stellar sports prospects have been awarded gold and silver sports scholarships in the second year of the scheme, run by the University’s Sports and Recreation Service.
The awards, which are funded by generous donations from alumni of the University, will entitle each student to access to sports facilities, training, physiotherapy, and advice – with gold scholars receiving a £500 grant from the University’s Alumni Student Opportunities Fund.
Up-and-coming Taekwondo star Matthew Pearce is one of those to secure a gold scholarship. The 18-year-old, from the Wirral, Merseyside, has already built up an impressive track record on the national and international Tae Kwon-Do stage.
He won the junior “patterns” title at the Tae Kwon-Do International World Championships in 2010, and came third in the under 18 category in the 2012 British Taekwondo National Championships – despite suffering a broken arm in the first of nine rounds. He also came third in this year’s British National Championships, while competing in the men’s category.
Matthew first took up the sport when he was 5, and for many years learned the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) style before switching to the more kick-based World Taekwondo Federation style when he joined the Olympic Taekwondo Centre, in the Wirral.
Since starting his degree in Medical Genetics at the University this year, Matthew has been training with coach Seelan Rengasamy, who competed in the 1988 Olympic Games.
He is now looking to compete in the European Taekwondo Union A-Class tournaments this summer, as well as the British Student Taekwondo Federation National Championships in March.
Matthew said: “Getting the sports scholarship has really helped me with my training. It has been a fantastic bonus to coming here for my Medical Genetics degree.
“Between my degree and my training, I don’t have time to get a part-time job. I train in Peterborough, and I genuinely wouldn’t be able to afford to travel there for training without the scholarship. I wish I could personally thank each of the alumni who have made it possible for me to pursue my dreams.”
Fellow gold scholarship recipient Lucy Ford has also built up some seriously impressive sporting credentials.
The 18-year-old, from Altrincham, Lancashire, represents her country while playing in the English Lacrosse women’s Development Squad – a youth team for under-19s.
Lucy first started playing Lacrosse when she was five, and worked her way up to playing for the national side after playing at county and then regional level. She has already played in some high-profile matches such as last year’s Home Internationals, a tournament between England, Scotland and Wales. She aims to play in this event again in May – and hopes to qualify for the women’s Elite squad after she graduates from the youth team.
Lucy, who has started her degree in English and American Studies this year, said: “The scholarships are definitely a good thing, as Lacrosse is something I am really passionate about – and I am quite lucky to be able to carry on with it now that I am at University.
“My dream is to make it into the English Lacrosse Women’s Elite Squad, and play in the World Cup in 2017.”
The University is offering a total of seven gold scholarships and ten silver scholarships to talented students. This year, the University is also offering ten golf bursaries.
Matthew Weir, Assistant Director of Sports (Sports Development), said: “The purpose of the scholarships is to help attract more top sports performers to the University of Leicester and provide essential flexibility and support to those pursuing both sporting and academic excellence. We are grateful to the University alumni who have made this scholarship programme possible through their philanthropic support.
“We aim to recruit the very best student applicants to the University of Leicester regardless of financial circumstance, provide the best student sporting experience and raise individual and overall level of performance in Leicester’s distinctive sports.
“These individuals demonstrate discipline, application and talent which enable them to perform at the top of their game both in a sporting sense and in their academic studies.”