An inspiring eight Millfield students and alumni competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, winning four medals during the competition.
Old Millfieldian swimmer James Guy, who still trains at Millfield, won two silver medals in the 4 x 200m freestyle and 4 x 100m medley relays. He also performed well in his individual races, narrowly missing out on bronze in the 200m freestyle. James’ coach and Director of Swimming at Millfield, Jol Finck, was also at Rio as part of Team GB coaching team and was the coach in charge of the 4 x 200m freestyle relay.
Class of 2016 leaver Cameron Kurle, 19, joined James Guy in the pool, competing in the 200m freestyle event and was also a reserve for the 4 x 200m relay team.
Old Millfieldian rower Helen Glover and teammate Heather Stanning repeated their success from London 2012, taking the gold medal in the women’s pair event.
Ollie Lindsay-Hague became the first Old Millfieldian to compete in Rugby 7s at the Olympics, and took home a silver medal alongside the rest of the Team GB squad.
Nikki Hamblin, representing New Zealand, competed in the women’s 1500m and 5000m. Following an unexpected fall in her 5000m heat, Nikki hit the headlines after she displayed great sportsmanship with a fellow runner. The Olympic movement awarded her the Spirit of Endeavour Award in recognition of this.
Modern Pentathlete Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe represented Ireland and finished 8th in the competition. Millfield’s Director of Modern Pentathlon and Fencing, and personal coach to Arthur, Tristan Parris joined him in Rio as part of the Pentathlon Ireland coaching team.
Jazmin Sawyers, current British long jump champion, competed in her first Olympic Games. After successfully progressing through to the final, she finished the competition in eighth place.
Simon Mantell travelled to Rio as a reserve for the Team GB Men’s Hockey team. Following an injury to one of his teammates, Simon played against New Zealand, Australia and Spain in the group stages but ultimately didn’t progress to the quarter-finals.
Clockwise from top left: Simon and Jazmin, Cameron, Arthur, Ollie and Helen
We spoke to Director of Sport, David Faulkner, about what makes this Somerset school so special in the sporting world.
Tell us about your experience in the Olympics.
‘I was the non-travelling reserve for the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, 1984-88 World and European silver medallist and member of 1988 Seoul Olympic gold medal winning team for GB men’s hockey. As a team with a collective focus, with one aim, we had harmony both on and off the field of play. Before going to the Olympics, the closest I got to touching the world’s best was through the television. I had to pinch myself that I was in the same place as all these top athletes!
‘After my hockey career I went back into business, buying a clothing printing company. In 2004 I returned to sport as Performance Director in England and GB hockey in 2005. At that time the men’s team was ranked 12th in the world, at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 the men came fifth and the women sixth. By London 2012, the women won bronze and the men came foth. In that time between 2008-2012 we won more medals at world and euro levels than in the previous 20 years.
‘London was a very different Olympic experience; my role there matched my own Seoul experience as an athlete, and in some areas, was better. There was a great ‘home games’ atmosphere.’
How does the Millfield environment prepare pupils for a career in sport?
‘We provide holistic framework for the pupil to balance their academic and sport to ensure they can be the best they can possibly be at both. We also have the Millfield Institute of Sport and Wellbeing that provides appropriate support across athletic development, nutrition, physiotherapy, psychology performance analysis and wellbeing. These are underpinned in the following five areas:
- Physically – we run appropriate athletic development programme aligned with the National Governing Body. Supported by a proactive physiotherapy service and nutritional education including UK Anti-Doping (AKAD).
- Tactically – Provide the individual with the appropriate assistance for how they approach their sport on and off the field of play.
- Technically – High level technical sports specific coaching, supported by Performance Analysis feedback.
- Mentally – Psychology support for training and competition preparation, managing the academic and sport balance and injury management.
- Socially – The wider holistic development of the individual, including flexibility in their academic programme to support an individual’s sports aspiration.’
Does this reflect the wider independent sector?
‘We position ourselves at the forefront of sport. We recently held the Talent Pathway: Fulfilling Potential Conference and often host events to share the work we do here and pass on any advice to other schools and clubs.’
Does Millfield have any partnerships with local schools and/or the community?
‘Millfield is active in the local community, in both sports and other areas. In sport; we host, organise and provide facilities for a huge number of clubs, schools and representative organisations including athletics, hockey, netball, cricket, tennis, basketball, golf, football and fencing. We regularly host local swimming clubs and large regional competitions at our 50m Olympic-sized swimming pool. Along with organising sports days for local schools, we host multi-activity courses enabling local children to experience and benefit from a range of activities during the school holidays, together with children of the same age from around the world.’
What does Millfield’s strategy for the coming years involve?
‘The school as a whole is on a four-year circle which coincides with the Olympics rotation. The Millfield Sport 2016-2020 strategy outlines four key objectives:
- Early diversification in sports
- Focus on wellbeing
- Ensuring academic alignment, making sure pupil athletes are balancing all elements of school life
- Supporting aspirations in goal setting, time management and general life skills
- Fundamental support from the Millfield Institute of Sport and Wellbeing (MISW) through athletic development, physiotherapy, emotional intelligence, nutrition and video analysis
- Expertise and knowledge in coaching
- Breadth and depth of sporting choice
- Maintaining our facilities to a level which supports all sporting aspirations
- Provide open access for all pupils to every sport
Proactive in the community
- Supporting pupils in building relationships with clubs, national governing bodies and Old Millfieldians
- Focus on transition from the school environment to next level of sport
- Local partnerships
- Nurturing, supporting and managing pupils aspiring to excellence in sport
- Monitoring not only across a pupil’s sport but their academics and with respective national governing bodies
- Looking at every aspect of a pupil’s programme technically, tactically, physically and mentally
‘Each individual sport at Millfield has gone through a similar progress of putting together a strategy, which is sport-specific.’