Newcastle University: This Girl Did

Lucy Brogden and James Sproston compile a list of inspirational female athletes that have walked under the arches at Newcastle University

James Sproston
8th May 2017
Building on the campaign from the GEO3135 module, This Girl Did aims to highlight female role models in sport. Image: Akmal Rashid

These girls definitely can! We take a look at some of Newcastle’s most decorated female athletes.

The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign aims to get women nationwide getting active and participating in sport at all levels and disciplines. To mark the AU’s ‘this girl can’ week, we’re launching our newcastle based ‘This Girl Did’ campaign to show that girls definitely can. from Commonwealth Games participants to national finalists and international stars, Newcastle University certainly has had it's fair share of talented individuals.


Image: Jo Gascoigne-Owens

Image: Jo Gascoigne-Owens

Age: 38

Role: Research Funding Development Manager

Sport: Aquathlon

Achievements: 2013 Aquathlon World Champion; 2015 & 2016 Aquathlon European Champion

“Winning my first world aquathlon championship was pretty special.  The race is quite complicated so I had no idea that I was in the lead until I heard the commentator announce it as I ran to the finish line.  My whole family was there to watch, which was brilliant!  Another amazing moment was winning my ‘home’ running race for the first time.  The Northumberland Coastal Run finishes on the beach right near my house and it had always been a secret ambition to win it – that was pretty special for me.   I should say, though, that what I’ve gained from sport is far more significant in my life than what I’ve achieved.”

“What I’ve gained from sport is far more significant in my life that what I’ve achieved”


“I have represented Great Britain in aquathlon (swim-run) in my age-group at the World Championships in 2013 and European Championships in 2015 and 2016.  On each occasion I won the event.  I was also a member of the Great Britain Elite team for the World Aquathlon Championships in Chicago in 2015, finishing 8th.  I represented England Masters at Cross Country Running in 2015.  I ran in the elite field of the Great North Run in 2014 and 2016.  I was 19th in the Berlin Marathon in 2016, and first British woman.  Newcastle University has really supported me in achieving all of this, through its Elite Athlete Programme.”

“There is a place for all of us in sport”

Why should more girls should get involved in sport?

“I think the most important thing for women and girls to appreciate about sport is that it is something that we are completely in control of.  No matter what sport we do, everything about it is our choice.  We can be slow or fast.  We can wear baggy trousers or lycra.  We can be obsessed or do it for a laugh.  We can use it to travel the world or do it in our back garden.  We can use it to make friends or do it alone to clear our heads.  We can use it to get out of our comfort zone or to relax.  We can take part in an event with 30,000 others or we can do it with a DVD in our lounge.  We can do it for charity or we can do it for ourselves.  We can get a lot from it and we can give a lot back.  There is a place for all of us in sport.  It can be whatever we want it to be.”


Image: Amelia Pettitt

Image: Amelia Pettitt

Age: 22

Degree: MEng Hons Chemical Engineering

Sport: Cross Country

Achievements: Represented England at the British Athletics Cross (finished 6th); represented GB at the World University Cross Country Championships (finished 17th and Team GB won the silver overall)

How did you get into cross country?

“Since the age of 10 I have been involved in Athletics, training at my local running club and competing. I was I was keen for this to continue when I joined Newcastle University. In freshers’ week I sought out the Athletics and Cross Country team and got stuck in with their training schedule, making great friends in the team through competing at races all over the country.

My chemical engineering degree took me on a placement year in Middlesbrough where I was surrounded by male engineers in the workplace. It was a completely new area of the country for me, yet I was keen for my running to continue. I joined a local running club looking for a team to train with similar to my university one. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to find a club with the same age of runners. However, I joined a very friendly club who welcomed me and helped me train competitively for the competitions I had ahead including BUCS XC, which was the World University Cross Country trials.

Despite the only runners at the club my pace being middle aged men I loved training with the group with my goal to try and make the Great Britain Cross Country team. I was committed to my training schedule every week, and it paid off when I finished fourth in the trials and was selected for the championships in Italy.”

“If you have a goal, you will find a way of getting there, even if the path isn’t clear at first”

Why should more girls get into running?

“I would like to emphasise that throughout both my running and my studies I have been outnumbered by a male presence and new situations. Not letting this put me off has led to my success. If you have a goal, you will find a way of getting there, even if the pathway isn’t clear at first. Keep persevering, and never let negative thoughts, people’s comments/views or obstacles alter your goal or desire to reach it. Being part of a club or society is also a great way to increase your friendship group and self esteem.”


Image: Naomi Robinson

Image: Naomi Robinson

Age: 22

Degree: BSc Hons Geography

Sport: Curling

Achievements: u21 European Curling Champion

When did you start playing?

“I started playing when I was 13 years old. Fenton’s curling rink (the only dedicated curling rink in England) is situated close to where we live. My dad had his 50th birthday party there and enjoyed it so much that he took me along to try it. I was doing a lot of gymnastics then, so enjoyed the balance and strength aspects required. As soon as I started, I fell in love with the sport.”

How did you get into competitive curling?

“I started off playing in the junior training sessions twice a week. I brought one of my school friends along to try out curling and she loved it too, so we travelled to and from training together. There were other girls who were also quite good at the time, so the five of us started going to an elite session where we were coached separately. After about a year we were told that the England Curling Association were going to be sending a junior team to the European Junior championships.  As we were the only team around at the time, we took hold of the opportunity. Our success grew from there.”

"As soon as I started, I fell in love with the sport"

We saw that you competed at the European U21 Curling Championships, was that your first tournament with the national squad?

“This was actually our seventh time attending the under 21 European Championships, which was held in Prague. For the last seven years, myself and my childhood friend Hetty, have played in the England junior team. Our current team has now been playing together for three years, so we know each other well, which definitely helps team dynamics. We won all of our first five games, which meant we were top of the table and therefore qualified automatically for the quarterfinals, where we beat Latvia. We then played a tough game against Hungary in the semis, which we also won, and then had a pretty easy win against Turkey in the final to become U21 European Champions. Last year we won Bronze, so winning the Gold this year was a real achievement for our team. This is also the first time that any U21 England team has won the Europeans, which meant that we qualified for the World U21 Championships in Estonia.”

What other major tournaments have you taken part in?

“In 2013, I got selected to play in the Women’s (over 21s) England team, where we won bronze in our first major European competition in Norway. I have also competed in the England Mixed team (consisting of 2 men and 2 women), where we played the Europeans Mixed Championships in Turkey in 2012.”


Image: Sasha Adwani

Image: Sasha Adwani

Age: 20

Degree: BSc Biology (Cell & Molecular Biology)

Sport: Rowing

Achievements: Gold and bronze at the 2014 British Rowing Championships ; silver at the 2015 & 2016 BUCS Regatta; silver at the 2016 u23 World Championships

Since arriving at Newcastle 3 years ago, Sasha has led the women’s squad through coxing the 1st eight consistently. She began rowing at school when she was 11, and then switched to coxing not long after.


Image: Gabby Withrington

Image: Gabby Withrington

Age: 23

Degree: MRes Medical Sciences

Sport: Triathlon

Achievements: 8 Marathons in 8 Days for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Starting with Manchester Marathon on April 2nd and finishing with Brighton Marathon on April 9th. Ran her own Marathon every day in between around the country.

“It probably sounds really cliché but it truly was the hardest 8 days of my life but I absolutely loved the experience and would recommend it to anyone. Before this challenge, I didn’t have a huge amount of running experience. I had run 1 marathon (in 1 day) so logically thought the next step from there would be to increase it to 8 marathons in 8 days. At the time I didn’t realise how ridiculous a challenge I had set myself, after having read about Ben Smith who ran 401 marathons in 401 days, I thought 8 couldn’t be too difficult! I was very wrong. Looking back on my achievement now, I still can’t believe how I managed to finish it but I couldn’t have done it without all the amazing support.”

“All you need is a pair of trainers and almost everyone can do it”

Why should girls get into running?

“Running is amazing! It’s so cheap, all you need is a pair of trainers and almost everyone can do it. For women in particular, it’s an empowering way to exercise given that historically, women were never allowed to participate in organised races because no one believed they could physically do it. Parkrun is a great place to start if you need a bit of motivation/inspiration.”


Image: Nic Robinson

Image: Nic Robinson

Age: 24

Degree: MSc Clinical Science (Vascular Science)

Sport: Water Polo

Achievements: Representing Wales at the 2014 Commonwealth Water Polo Championships, and currently captaining the Wales team.

5th placed finish for Wales in the Commonwealth Water Polo Championships

Why should more girls get involved in sport?

“Playing water polo has given me so many opportunities. It has allowed me to keep fit, make friends and learn skills that can be used in all sorts of situations. As well as studying my masters part time I also work full time, training a couple of evenings a week allows me to relax and forget about work for a few hours. I’d recommend everyone gets involved in sports of some sort, check out local teams, and give yourself a chance to socialise and keep fit at the same time!”


Image: Holly White

Image: Holly White

Age: 24

Degree: MRes/PhD Cancer Research

Role: Assistant Research Funding Development Manager for the SAgE Faculty

Sport: Swimming

Achievements: Representing England in the UK and Ireland Schools Swimming League

“Swimming has given me the confidence to branch out”

Why should girls get involved?

“I started swimming lessons at a young age, simply to learn how to swim. I absolutely loved the social element of being in a team and have ever since enjoyed an active lifestyle. Being involved in swimming has given me the confidence to branch out into other sports in more recent years and has enabled me to have good health and focus in other things I do. Ultimately, sport should be fun and, whether female or male, we ALL need more fun! I think the first steps that girls should take to get involved in sport is try out different sports and activities to find out what they enjoy doing the most.”


Image: Lucy Hyde

Image: Lucy Hyde

Age: 24

Degree: MB BS Medicine

Sport: Ultimate

Achievements: Vice captain of the GBu23 Women’s team who competed at the u23 World Championships in 2015; captained Newcastle Women’s team for two years, achieving third place at University Nationals and also playing for some very good club teams including Relentless and SMOG.

6 years playing for Newcastle Pies

Why should girls play ultimate?

“I joined the Newcastle University Ultimate Frisbee Club in my first year, having never heard of it before. Frisbee just required weekend commitment (and the odd training), which I could manage with my degree, and I fell in love with the sport pretty quickly. It’s fast-paced, involves a lot of skill and encompasses all the things I loved about netball, tennis and athletics into one. Plus, there are opportunities to play both Women’s and Mixed, which is very different to most sports. The big bonus on top of all of that is how incredibly friendly everyone is; I have friends all over the country and further from teams I’ve played against and with. I could not recommend it more!”


Image: Emily Ford

Image: Emily Ford

Age: 22

Degree: BA Hons Fine Art

Sport: Rowing

Achievements: Silver and bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Regatta; bronze at the 2013 u23 World Championships; silver at the 2016 u23 World Championships


Image: Steve Ashworth

Image: Steve Ashworth

Age: 23

Degree: BSc Agriculture

Sport: Triathlon

Achievements: Women’s Winner of Triathlon X – the world’s hardest Triathlon - 3.8km Swim in Lake Windermere, 180km Fred Whitton bike route in Lake District, marathon up and over Scafell Pike.

17 hours taken for Daisy Baggs to finish (and win) Triathlon X


Image: Lucy Nehring

Image: Lucy Nehring

Age: 20

Degree: BSc Hons Speech and Language Sciences

Sport: Swimming

Achievements: Tokyo final at Olympic trials 2016; Tokyo final at world trials 2017; swam for England at the French open in Vichy 2016

Why did you get involved in sport?

“I used to do lots of sports when I was younger including dancing, tennis and gymnastics. My teacher suggested I try for a swim club and I did. Now I have now been swimming competitively for around 8 years.”

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with pushing yourself and feeling proud of yourself for doing so”

Why do you stay in sport?

“I think the reason I’ve stuck with swimming so long is because it’s hard work and challenging- sometime you wait years to scrape a hundredth of a second off your personal best, but it’s worth it because you know how much you sacrificed for it. Swimming has taught me to be resilient, to be organised and good at time management, to push myself as far as possible, and to keep pushing even when you think your body can’t do anymore and your brain is telling you to quit. It’s also taught me new skills, such as strength and conditioning exercises and Olympic lifting, as well as given me opportunities to meet new people.”

Why should more girls get involved?

“More girls should get involved in sport because it’s good for you physically and mentally, it’s versatile and it can be really challenging but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pushing yourself and feeling proud of yourself for doing so.”

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