University of Birmingham Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation student, Lily Owsley and Psychology graduate Sophie Bray helped Team GB to make history as part of the first British women’s hockey team to win Olympic gold, on the last Friday of the 2016 Rio Games.

Current student Lily Owsley, aged 21, is the youngest member of the British hockey team, but she didn’t let sport’s biggest event overwhelm her. Owsley scored Team GB’s opening goal of the Olympics and the first goal of the 3-3 draw in the gold medal final.

Great Britain stormed into the record books with seven straight victories. In the gold medal final, they were against the world’s top-ranked women’s hockey team, The Netherlands. Owsley secured a 1-0 advantage, however, the Dutch retaliated with a relentless attack which kept the play dangerously close to Team GB’s goal. She is pictured above, celebrating her goal with Sophie Bray - number 19 - who set her up to score.

Lily Owsley and Sophie Bray

The British side put up a blockading defence saving numerous penalty corners before one found the back of the net levelling the score 1-1. The back and forth scoring continued until the final whistle and the score stood at 3-3, meaning the gold medal would be decided on penalties.

The world’s number one side could not beat goalkeeper Maddy Hinch, who had an exceptional Olympic campaign, and Team GB secured the first gold medal victory 2-0.

Owsley will now be returning to the University of Birmingham for her second year of study as an Olympic gold medallist, not only making British history, but University of Birmingham Sport history too. This is in the same year that Owsley was named Rising Star of the Year by the International Hockey Federation.

Owsley and Bray added to the University of Birmingham Sport medal tally which James Rodwell, who graduated from the University in 2005, started in the Rugby Sevens in which he helped Team GB gain a silver medal in the sport’s inaugural Olympic Games.

Graduate sport scholar, Sara Treacy, who still trains at the University with coach Bud Baldaro, ran the 3,000-metre steeplechase for Ireland. After a dramatic heat in which  Treacy was knocked over by another runner, Treacy was placed 17th in the Olympic final on 15 August  with a time of 9:52:70.

Sport and Exercise graduate and 2013 ITU World Champion Non Stanford had to wait until the penultimate day of the Rio 2016 Olympics before she raced in the triathlon. Non was at the forefront of the leading group throughout the race, however, when the USA’s Gwen Jorgensen and defending Olympic champion Nicola Spirig, from Switzerland, broke away in the 10,000-metre run, Stanford was left alongside fellow Team GB athlete, best friend and housemate, Vicky Holland to race for the bronze medal. Stanford narrowly missed out on the bronze to Holland by three seconds.  

Naomi Folkard, 2005 Music graduate, was the first alumna to begin her Olympic campaign in archery on the day before the Opening Ceremony. This was Folkard’s fourth Olympics and proved to be her most successful to date when she finished seventh. This was also Team GB’s highest finish for many years.

Unfortunately, Physiotherapy alumna Ciara Horne did not make an appearance on the bike in Team GB’s world-record breaking Olympic campaign. Her teammates broke a world-record in the Team Pursuit during qualifying and then went on to win the gold medal in the final. Despite not racing, Ciara’s teammates commended her contribution to the team’s success in the Olympics. 

University of Birmingham alumnus Paul Manning (Earth Sciences 1996) who is a three-times Olympian and triple world champion in team and individual pursuit cycling, also played a key role as coach to the women’s GB Cycling team who brought home a staggering eight medals, five of them gold.