Performing at the top

[This article is from the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of InTouch, your alumni magazine]

The Performance Athlete programme at King’s offers financial sponsorship and support to students who compete in their chosen sport at the highest level.

From rowing hero Dame Katherine Grainger CBE FKC (PhD Law, 2013) to recent Performance Athlete graduate and athletics superstar Dina Asher-Smith (History, 2017), King’s alumni have a proud history of sporting success – one we’re keen to see continue.

The Performance Athlete programme aims to identify and support the best student athletes to help them achieve both academic and sporting success. As well as providing financial grants, the programme gives athletes access to state-of-the-art performance facilities plus tailored support and coaching. Here, we profile a couple of the student athletes currently benefiting from the programme.

Laviai Nielson and the GB 400 metre relay team

Laviai Nielson (second from right) with the GB 400 metre relay team
at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, 2017

Laviai Nielson

A Geography student at King’s and an international 400 metre runner, Laviai is half Egyptian and traces her interest in Geography back to regular summer trips to Egypt – a very different world from the London suburb of Leytonstone where she grew up.

She said she was attracted to King’s as a modern university with a great research programme ‘and that’s exactly what I got.’
Laviai and her twin sister Lina started out as middle- distance runners (racing between 800 and 3,000 metres), but after trying

400 metre running a couple of years ago they’ve never looked back. Laviai’s sports career has continued to develop with the support of King’s, culminating with her proudest sporting moment to date: representing Great Britain at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in 2017, coming home with a silver medal as part of the relay squad.

As a young volunteer ‘games maker’ carrying Jessica Ennis-Hill’s kit bag at the London 2012 Olympics, Laviai was able to see her sporting hero compete first hand.

Laviai said: ‘Jessica [Ennis- Hill] was my sporting idol growing up. I was inspired by her composure under pressure as well as her determination overcoming setbacks.’

Will Dreary fencing

Will Deary competing in 2017 at the Junior World Fencing Championships in Bulgaria

Will Deary

A Computing & Robotics student at King’s and an international junior fencer, Will took up fencing as a young child in Cornwall. He started as a beginner and worked hard to join his friends in the higher groups. The hard work paid off and following his A-levels he moved to London to train with the British Fencing team full time.

As a first year, Will is a recent addition to the Performance Athlete programme, but he says he is already seeing the benefit of regular physio work and weekly gym sessions with Chris McCann, Strength and Conditioning Coach. Will has been balancing his academic and sporting commitments since the age of 12 and he explains: ‘You have to be strict about how you organise your time. I go to all my lectures and then often straight to training.’

Will’s sporting hero is fellow diabetic Sir Steve Redgrave, someone he identifies with as not having let anything affect his ambitions as an athlete.