Image of Dean Miller on the trackCategoriesEvents

From Student Athlete to Coach: Para Sport with Dean Miller

From Student Athlete to Coach: Para Sport with Dean Miller

Dean Miller is our Endurance Manager and Coach for the Athletics club here at the University. To mark Disability History Month and International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we spoke to Dean about his journey as a former Para-athlete.

 

Once a  student himself at the University of Birmingham and part of our Athletics club, Dean provides real insight into the opportunities that were made available to him through the University and beyond, and reflects on how the opportunities have changed over the years within the para-sport field.

Image of Dean Miller coaching students in Font Romeu

Credit: Zach Bridgelands

Q: For those less familiar, what is Para Sport?

 

‘It’s a fantastic spectrum of events, and actually it’s really hard to describe in just a few words – but it’s a huge thing, it’s a movement. It’s a sporting spectacle based around the Paralympics and Paralympic sport, which is born from the Olympic Games. But our sport is based around sport for disabled people at all different levels, ranging from participation level in clubs athletes, fitness and rehab, right the way through to the real elite and world class side of things at the Paralympic Games, who receive sponsorships and make a living from sport. I’m a massive advocate for Para Sport and we’re trying to do more for the University’.

Q: What opportunities were available to you that helped you get involved in para-athletics in the first place?

 

‘I actually think that my path was probably slightly different in that prior to joining the University of Birmingham as a student, I was already involved in non-para sport. My dad was an athletics coach. I think it was the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004 that I happened to be watching, which would go on to be my classification, the 1500.

 

I said to my dad, those guys run a little bit like me – could I be on that stage? Then we started to explore how I could get into Para sport, and I was fortunate enough that I was a pretty good club athlete and with my Cerebral Palsy and the level of training, I was able to make some GB teams.

 

Off the back of that, my profile and where I was in the sport allowed me to come to University of Birmingham and be part of the scholarship program.’

 

Image of young Dean running on a track for GB

Q: What was your experience on the University of Birmingham Sport Scholarship Programme?

 

‘I was really well supported as a student athlete here; Birmingham has become my home. As I say, I’ve been here since 2007 now and they supported me well as a student athlete with a disability at a world class level.

 

I graduated in 2011 as an under-grad, but I’ve never left the place. They continued to support me through a graduate sports scholarship from 2011 to the end of my career in 2015, when I retired for injury. I’m now coaching the Universities athletics team here. I think in terms of opportunities the university is given me as someone within para sport, it’s kind of endless.

 

And from supporting me with the job, supporting my kind of my athletic skills as an athlete along with socially and educationally.’

 

Q: What is your fondest memory during your time competing?

 

‘It has to be the home games. I didn’t ever think I’d compete in front of 80,000 people, which I got to do.

 

The 2012 Paralympics is the biggest Paralympics ever. It’s the first Paralympic Games ever to be sold out. I remember speaking to one of my training partners at the time that summer and he said, I can’t get a ticket for your event. And I said, I’m sure we’ll be able to sort one out. And actually, at that point I think I realised I was going to be competing in front of a packed-out Olympic stadium.

 

I think I was one of only two Brits on that evening, so it was a pretty surreal moment. I always describe as I felt like I was running in a PlayStation game. It felt crazy and I probably never experienced anything like that again. For me, having that evening in the stadium to run a Paralympic final was really, really special.’

Q: How have the opportunities available to para-athletes improved since you first got involved, and what specifically does the University of Birmingham offer para-athletes, in terms of opportunities to participate, develop and compete?

 

It’s funny how opportunities available to us athletes have improved since I first got involved and what specifically was being invested in the athletes. I think the Paralympics and the Paralympic movement and power sport is always like a little sister or brother to the Olympic Games, so we always we are always playing catch up in that sense.

 

But as I said, I’ve just spoke about the 2012 Games and what the games did for our sport in helping throw para sport into the mainstream channels, like marketing campaigns.

 

We’ve seen so much more opportunity, the Paralympic Games are growing. More sports are involved now, and there’s more money in the sport so our athletes can genuinely be world class in the classification in our event and go on top careers, which is something that maybe like 20 years ago and just before the London Games was much smaller.

 

And you’ve got household names. You’ve got you got your Jonnie Peacock, Johanna Cockcroft, they aren’t just world class athletes, but also celebrities and have made careers and are advocates for para sports. So, I think what the games in 2012 did was massive from a university perspective.’

Dean pictured next to student athlete with track in background

Credit: Zach Bridgelands

Athletics Club running on track in Font Romeu

You can find out more about the Athletics club that Dean coaches using the link below.

Picture of UOB athlete running alongside Ivy League competitorCategoriesEvents Student News

Welcoming x4 Ivy League Athletics Teams To Compete On Our Track

Welcoming x4 Ivy League Athletics Teams To Compete On Our Track

Last week we had a once in a lifetime exchange visit from 4 Ivy League Universities to re-start a partnership which dates back to 1962.

 

The University of Birmingham has a strong relationship that dates back nearly 70 years with 4 of the most prestigious Ivy League Universities: Harvard, Yale, Penn & Cornell.

 

On a 4-year cycle, this includes visits to Birmingham from pairs of universities at a time, staying with Birmingham student-athletes for 3-4 days during which we compete against them in an Athletics Match, host a formal dinner and organise some tourist experiences for their students and staff.

 

Athletes and staff from the American Universities were all on campus on Saturday 24 June for a historic Athletics Match at the University of Birmingham Track in a double-header match against our very own UoB Athletics Club.

Picture of UOB Athletics team in group photo smiling on Athletics track after match

This spectacularly coincided with a University Open Day, displaying the very best that Sport has to offer here at Birmingham with parents and prospective students able to witness first-and our vibrant community of student – athletes engaged in an exchange that is unique to Birmingham.

 

In the match itself, Birmingham were victorious over the combined Harvard & Yale team retaining the Bob Ashwood Cup for another 4 years!

 

Unfortunately the Penn & Cornell team, edged out the Birmingham team in the final few events by a mere 8 points to keep the Professor Michael Hayes Trophy stateside.

2 men running towards finish line- one from UOB
Women's Relay team passing the baton while running

We were absolutely delighted that Professor Hayes, now 93 years old, who founded the exchange whilst an academic here at Birmingham in the 1960’s was able to come over from his Limerick home, to attend the weekend’s festivities – speaking with great fondness of the exchange with all student-athletes, coaches and alumni in attendance.

 

The exchange was formally kicked off with a Welcome Reception in Lapworth Museum, hosted by Stephen Jarvis and supporting words from Yale Director of Athletics, David Shoehalter and our own Birmingham Athletics Presidents, Imogen Shepperd and Josh Woods.

Picture of man running at speed

David Shoehalter:

 

‘We absolutely love coming to Birmingham, you guys always give our team such a great reception. It’s been too long since our great schools have been able to do this exchange and we can’t wait to have you visit us again next year.’

 

Professor Micheal Hayes also had these words for all the athletes, at the end of Athletics Match on Saturday:

 

‘Sport is one of the strongest vehicles for learning and setting you up for the next stage of life. And I believe, that your coaches are some of the greatest educators in this pursuit; I firmly believe this. Thank you to all your coaches for continuing to support this fantastic exchange – as I know you will look back on this week for many years to come with immense fondness’

 

Athletes sat on the track
UoB female athlete throwing shotput

Finally, on Saturday evening we hosted a banquet at Staff House, for all our incoming Penn & Cornell visitors (who arrived on Saturday for the Match). This banquet for 220 attendees fully funded by the Athletics Club, saw our student hosts sitting with the 60 strong American visitors as well as VIP guests from previous exchanges and 3 tables of Birmingham Athletics Club alumni, who all competed in the exchange back in the 1980’s.

This is only one of many incredible events that our Athletics team get involved in- there have been endless achievements across the year. Want to find out more about our largest sport club? Explore via the button below.

Photo creds: Nathan Styles Porter, Didi Okoh and Zach Bridgeland.

Team photo of the whole UoB Athletics team smiling at BUCS Outdoors 2023CategoriesStudent News

BEST EVER BUCS OUTDOORS MEDAL HAUL FOR BRUM

BEST EVER BUCS OUTDOORS MEDAL HAUL FOR BRUM

The UoB Athletics team had its most successful ever weekend at the BUCS Outdoor Athletics Championships in Manchester this weekend, culminating in its most successful year to date.

Male athletes hug at the finish line of the track at BUCS Outdoors 2023
Image credit: Issy Boffey
4 Female athletes smiling with yellow, blue and red facepaint at BUCS Outdoors 2023
Image credit: Issy Boffey

The annual event saw 80 athletes competing in the final event of the BUCS Outdoors calendar across the first weekend in May, and saw a staggering 19 medals hauled home by the team – beating the previous record of 15!

 

If that wasn’t enough, the club saw a record 49 top-8 placements (previous record of 31) and 65 finalists (previous record 54). This, plus the 24 personal bests accumulated in the process, saw UoB place second overall in both the men’s and women’s standing – for the first time in over 12 years at these Championships.

 

Luke Gunn, Head of Athletics and Head of Performance at UoB Sport & Fitness said it was a superb result.

 

“There were some incredible landmarks achieved from our athletes across the weekend – to name a few, Didi Okoh who was the first ever athlete to ever win four medals at one Championship; first time in modern BUCS that the men have won the 4x100m relay, 84% of the female finals being Birmingham representation. But it wasn’t just the results: as usual, Birmingham bought the atmosphere and it was fantastic to see and hear such support. A huge thank you to them and as always to our coaches, support staff and club development for their incredible work to organise these Championships.”

Didi Okoh with a bronze and gold medal
Didi Okoh with a bronze and gold medal. Credit: Issy Boffey
Female athletes smile with medals round their necks at BUCS Outdoors 2023
Image credit: Issy Boffey

A full list of our amazing medallists is as follows:

GOLD:

Tomer Tarragano, 10,000m

Kristian Imroth, Steeplechase (the first ever Birmingham 1-2-3 clean sweep)

Abbie Ives, 800m

Men’s 4x100m (first time in modern BUCS, that the men have won 4x100m relay)

Didi Okoh, Ambulant Long Jump (first athlete to ever win 4 medals at one championships)

SILVER: 

Didi Okoh, Ambulant Discus

Orla Brennan, 400m Hurdles

Angel Diaz, 110m Hurdles

Tom Bridger, Steeplechase

Women’s 4x400m

BRONZE:

Didi Okoh, Ambulant 100m

Fenton Bishop-Trimmings, Javelin

Amelia Briggs-Goode, 400m Hurdles (the final of which was made up of 50% of Birmingham athletes)

Elliot Moran, Steeplechase

Amelia Quirk, 5000m

Tyler Bilyard, 1500m

Lily Holt, High Jump

Didi Okoh, Ambulant Shot

Women’s 4x100m

 

Plus, Kirsty-Anne Ebbage was the first non-combined eventer to make 3 individual finals (Shot Put, Hammer and Discus).

Together with BUCS Indoors earlier this year and Cross Country, these results push us above last year’s BUCS record number of points and medals, with a whopping 35 medals and 6 team medals; totalling 398 points in 2023 so far…with Combined Events still to come!

A huge congratulations to all of our competitors, and thank you to the supporters and coaches who give up so much of their time to help – particularly to Jade Surman, who led this Championship’s logistics for her first time with consummate ease and professionalism; and also to Sprint Coach, Mike Bennett, who had an incredible Championships directly contributing to 5 of our medals and our best sprints squad depth ever.

 

All images credit: Issy Boffey

CategoriesStudent News

ATHLETICS CLUB VS ALTITUDE AT FONT ROMEU

ATHLETICS CLUB VS ALTITUDE: FONT ROMEU 2023

This Easter saw 50 Athletes from the University of Birmingham’s Athletics Club head to the French Pyrenees for an Altitude Training Camp.

The picturesque Font Romeu hosted the group for a three-week training camp with the aim of preparing the squad for the start of the 2023 summer season, which kicked off at the end of April with the BUCS Outdoor Championships. 

Headed by the club’s Endurance Coach Dean Miller, the athletes followed in the trails often tread by Sir Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe. The natural ‘skinny air’ experienced with training at such high altitudes creates an ideal training camp environment for the group.

 

Dean, having previously trained in the area himself as an athlete, now spear-heads the University team’s coaching programme. With packed-daily schedules for each athlete, Dean was also supported by Simon Eustace and Dave Sheldon from the Sport & Fitness Performance Centre, as well as Mike Gosling (Physio) and coaches Luke Gunn, Jethro McGraw and Sally Straw.

 

The camp is a culmination of months of preparation with the Performance Centre and Athletics coaches. 

 

Athletes undertook a gruelling training regime, which would typically include a morning threshold training session of between five to nine miles, and an evening run or cross-training session up to five miles!

 

Want to find out more about our Athletics and Cross-Country opportunities? Visit the dedicated webpage now!

Runners shaking hands after raceCategoriesStudent News

A Record-Breaking Weekend of BUCS Action For UoB

It was medals-galore for the University of Birmingham this weekend, with many of our clubs competing across the country at the highest level.

ATHLETICS

University of Birmingham Athletics and Cross Country Club were simply outstanding at the BUCS Cross Country Championships in Horsenden Hill, London. After fighting off tough competition from the likes of Loughborough and St Mary’s Universities, our club won more medals than any other institution in the event’s history!

The pressure was on for our athletes, with the added incentive of World University Cross Country selection up for grabs too, but our club did not disappoint. The display of depth in the Men’s and Women’s shorter races not only made for an incredibly special day for the team, but also shows the potential for this team to grow its influence in the coming years.

In the men’s long race, Sports Scholar Will Battershill won the individual gold medal in epic style, whilst also securing the overall team win alongside club mates Will Barnicoat, Mike Ward and Joe Hudson. UoB claimed the top 4 spots in the men’s short race, with scintillating runs from Ethan O’shea, Tom Keen, Ollie Smart and Kristian Imroth, earning a team gold and team silver in the process, with another 4 Birmingham students finishing in the top 15.

In the Women’s races our cross-country stars really excelled as part of a team, with a special mention to long course team silver medallists Saskia Millard, Charlotte Alexander and Maisie Grice. The women’s team also won the gold medal in the short race. UoB is currently awaiting the selection for the GB World University Cross Country team later this week, but with teams of 6 male and females looking to be selected, we could well have 4-5 athletes earning GB call-ups.

A huge amount of credit to the students but also to our Athletics coaches who work extremely hard to produce these top quality athletes, including our coaches featured in our Game Changer campaign, Bud Baldaro.

SQUASH

Closer to home, our Sport & Fitness Club hosted BUCS Squash Premier League Stage 2, another exciting BUCS competition this weekend, with other Universities from around the UK arriving to compete.

There were some fantastic results across the board, with the Men’s 1s winning the competition undefeated and topping the table. Women’s 1s placing second, after narrowly missing out to the University of Nottingham in a close game. This gives us a strong advantage going into the cup with our teams being higher seeded.

GYMNASTICS

Also this weekend, our Gymnastics Club travelled to Leicester for BUCS Gymnastics competition. Well done to Hannah Wedgewood, Holly Clark, Chandra Bhamidimarri, and Olivia Rabaiotti for their brilliant silver medal win in the Women’s All Round final, contributing to our BUCS points tally. Our club returned home with an incredible nine medals overall across the participatory levels.

KORFBALL

On Saturday 6th February, three of our korfball teams set of for Cardiff to compete in a BUCS Regionals Tournament. Each team finished second in their group leading to a battle of the UoB teams, with the 1s coming out on top. They have now qualified for the BUCS National Championships.

OUR WINNING WEEKLY LEAGUE CLUBS

Finally, we’d like to say a huge congratulations to our Netball Women’s 1s, who have won the EY Premiership North BUCS Division and now progress onto the quarter-finals. Also on a winning streak this year are our Hockey Women’s 1s who have remained unbeaten all season and if they secure a win or draw on 9th Feb (2:30pm at home) they will have finished at the top of the ICG Women’s Premier National League – a title we have not won to date!  

Term 2 is off to a flying start for lots of our clubs, and with many BUCS medals still up for grabs and the closing of leagues over the upcoming weeks. Turning an eye to BUCS Nationals on the weekend of the 18th – 20th February with over 100 athletes competing across 5 sports.

We’re very much looking forward to seeing what’s to come for our Lions.