Focus on Man Met’s promising Sports Scholars

  • Vince Hunt profiles the latest crop of Sport Scholars

Not everyone who will wear MMU colours in sports arenas round the world over the next year started out training for that sport.

Georgia Holt, 19, originally wanted to compete in the skeleton, a downhill snow speed event similar to the luge or bobsleigh. She went to a regional trials but after a fitness assessment on a bike, she was told she had very strong leg muscles and might excel as a cyclist.

As a result, she transferred to MMU as a Sports Scholar and is fitting her second year of studies for a Bio Medical Science degree in between trials for the GB team.

“I feel really lucky,” she said.

“The standard of care at MMU, both mentally and physically, is great. My next goal is the BUCS championships at the end of November so I’m focussing on that. I would love to make the GB sprint cycle team.”

Bradley Nuttall, 19, is one of the most promising crop of gymnasts in the UK, ranking fourth in the UK behind five-time Olympic medallist Max Whitlock.

That’s distinguished company for a boy from Oldham who went to the town’s Bluecoat School. He’s been a gymnast since he was five and trains between three to four hours a week, five days-a-week.

Among his sporting heroes is the current GB number one, Max Whitlock, with whom he shares a passion for the pommel horse.

“MMU helps me with the finance, the training, the conditioning and keeps me in top form,” he said. “It’s a great set-up. What’s good about the Scholar programme is that it makes you realise how good you are.

“Sometimes you doubt yourself, but I look at that and it reassures me and pushes me on.”

Another home grown hopeful is 21-year-old Katie Matts from Worsley, a swimmer specialising in the 200 metre breaststroke. She’s been swimming since the age of seven, starting with the City of Salford team and then transferring to Stockport Metros.

In 2017 Katie won two golds at the British National Championships, including the 200m breaststroke – her third in as many years.

She fits her studies for a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science around the nine swim sessions a week she needs for peak fitness, plus three gym sessions, Pilates, cardio and gym sessions.

“MMU gave me the opportunity to be able to train and study, which wouldn’t compromise my ability to be an elite athlete,” she says.

“In April I’m working towards Olympic trials for the GB squad. It’s awesome to think what the future might hold. Days like this – the Sports Scholars Welcome – make me realise how lucky I am.”

The latest additions to the ranks of MMU basketball players are formidable athletes: Portuguese international Sara Djassi, a sports business management masters student who will join forces with classmate and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Dominique Allen.

Both 30, they bring vast experience to the Manchester Mystics team and MMU basketball, where they will play alongside fourth year scholar Grace Simmons and the towering figure of Australian Samantha Roscoe.

Why did they choose MMU? Sara’s choice was simple.

“I compared MMU with other universities and MMU allowed me to keep all my options open: to play, to study and eventually to coach. I can do it all here,” she said.

Spanish-born Grace, 22, has been a fixture in the MMU basketball team as they have progressed from the lowest league to the top.

“It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed my time as a scholar. We’re really performed in that time, bonded as players and now we’re reaping the rewards,” she says.

Another phenomenal MMU success story is that of photographer Molly Darlington, who learned her craft in the rain pitchside, both at the Platt Lane MMU sports centre and by taking action shots for her local club, Northwich Victoria.

She is both determined and very talented, and graduated from an MMU photography course to covering Premier League and Champions League matches, to her current job with Reuters and a place on the plane to cover the Tokyo Olympics.

“I took the opportunities,” she says. “At MMU there are so many of them. It’s been unbelievable but I’m very excited about the future.”