Two of Nottingham’s most famous sporting alumni have been inducted into the University’s brand new sporting Hall of Fame at a glittering awards ceremony on Tuesday evening.
Deng Yaping, widely regarded as the world’s greatest ever table tennis player and voted Chinese athlete of the 20th century and Tim Brabants, who made history by winning Team GB’s first ever canoeing medal, were presented with their official award at the Sporting Excellence Awards hosted by University of Nottingham Sport.
Following the official opening of the new £40 million David Ross Sports Village, guests, alumni and the current cohort of elite student athletes joined together for a celebration of University of Nottingham sporting achievements, past and present.
Deng Yaping, who won four Olympic golds and numerous World titles during an eight period of domination in international women’s table tennis from 1991 , was delighted to be amongst the first inductees.
“I’m very honoured and happy to be part of the Hall of Fame – this University has given me so much and I love this campus and the people here. I'd like to thank Sir David for the opportunities the University gave me and to be able to come back this time. ”
In front of the audience, Deng Yaping described the challenges she faced in getting noticed as the beginning of her career.
“I started to train with my father when I was just five years old and I started to win many championships in my province. However, the national team coaches didn’t accept me due to my size. This just made me work even harder, training in really tough conditions - I'm so jealous of the students here now! Then I started to beat some of the top players including former World champions when I was just 13 years old - my style was fast-moving, talking all the time and I felt like I could fly then!”
Tim Brabants, who graduated with a degree in Medicine in 2002, admitted watching his gold medal race from the K1 1000m at the Beijing 2008 Games back still brought back strong emotions.
“I get goosebumps when I watch the race and think back to that moment in Beijing. I'd gone into the race as favourite, which was a huge boost but I still wasn't confident that I'd take gold. I'm a fast finisher, but I'm amazed that I led the race from start to finish - I kept thinking, where is everyone?!”
The double Olympic medallist, who has retired from international competition has now resumed his medical career in Nottingham and acts as Chief Medical Officer for British Canoeing, even won his first medal whilst still studying at the University. He thanked the University for their ongoing support;
“It’s a massive honour to be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Deng Yaping, she’s quite something – an Olympic legend. The University were a great support to me during my time at Nottingham; they encouraged me to excel in my sport and to complete my degree by allowing me the time I needed to train and study.”
Alongside the presentations to the two inaugural Hall of Fame inductees, the Sporting Excellence awards celebrated achievements of current student athletes, recognising individuals and teams who had excelled during the 2016/17 season.
Amongst the awardees was triple British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) table tennis champion Haoyu Liu, currently studying at Nottingham as the first Deng Yaping sports scholar. The scholarship allows talented table tennis players from China to access tuition fee scholarships for undergraduate and masters programmes as well as the opportunity to train and play at the highest level of University sport.
For more information please visit www.nottingham.ac.uk/sport/halloffame or contact Kate Rothery, Sports Marketing and Communications Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Thursday 18th May 2017