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Going Higher: The choice of the sportsperson

Loughborough University has the well-deserved reputation of being the finest sporting body in the region, but other institutions also boast good track records and some fine facilities. By Diana Appleyard
Think sport and you automatically think of Loughborough University - internationally renowned for its sporting achievements. Certainly the university has the finest facilities in the region - indeed, the indoor and outdoor facilities are recognised as being among the best in Britain. The university has more than 30 sports scholars, the latest of whom is a golfer. Nineteen staff and graduates went to the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 to compete, officiate or to conduct research.

The university offers pounds 1,000 sports scholarships and there are three sports halls, a gym, fitness centre, dance studio, two swimming pools, seven squash courts, an all-weather athletics stadium and two flood-lit synthetic grass areas.

This is clearly the university to attend if you are a sports fanatic! One of the distinctive things about the university is the African violet colour worn by the many sports science students.

The athletics union is the best in the country and there are 56 sporting clubs with more than 4,000 members. The most famous old scholars are Seb Coe and Steve Backley.

Loughborough may be at the pinnacle when it comes to sport, but many of the region's other universities have excellent facilities as well. This is where the campus universities score most highly, with their wide open sites.

The University of Birmingham, being so near to the city, has to bus students five miles to its 70-acre rugby and soccer pitches.

But within the campus is the Munrow Sports Centre which offers facilities and classes in every conceivable sport and exercise, with a 25-metre pool, two gyms, a climbing wall and many different courts. The university also has the Centre for Outdoor Pursuits 170 miles away near Lake Coniston in Cumbria, which offers watersports, mountaineering and mountain biking. This is quite a plus.

Aston is not expressly designed as a university for the sportsman or woman, but it does have two sports centres - Woodcock with a swimming pool and the Gem Sports Hall with a synthetic floodlit pitch. Outside the city, students have access to the recreation centre which covers 95 acres. At the University of Central England there is something of a dearth of sporting activities, of which students in the past have been critical.

Coventry University's main claim to sporting fame is that it has the British international swimming coach, Nick Sellwood, to train its Olympic hopefuls. Training is done in the city's excellent Olympic-size swimming pool, and now there are to be sports scholarships, worth between pounds 4-pounds 5,000, a first for swimmers. Other sports are also to be considered. The university has 37 acres of playing fields four miles from the city centre, a nine- hole golf course and a new sports complex with five-a-side football, martial arts, table-tennis and weight-lifting.

Nottingham Trent University offers two sports centres, Summit One in the city and Summit Two at Clifton, with state-of-the-art equipment and keep-fit classes. At the city, pounds 60,000 has recently been spent on new rowing, hiking, sub aqua and mountaineering equipment. There are 50 sporting clubs from the usual rugby and football to circus skills.

The University of Nottingham has one of the best reputations for sport in the country, with excellent facilities for any sport you can name. The men's team came overall second last year in BUSA, and it is estimated that more than 40 per cent of the student population participates in sport.

At Keele University, as you would expect, everything is on campus, with a gym, a new sports hall and flood-lit sports pitch. It has 46 acres of grass pitches, a leisure centre with a fitness centre, seven squash courts and a climbing wall.

Nearby Newcastle has a 25-metre pool. Derby, with its busy expansion programme, is also extending sports facilities, too, with new pitches and the BUSA policy of "sport for all". Minority interests are also catered for here, with parachuting, snowboarding, mountaineering and, of course, caving, the Peak District's big attraction. The University of Leicester boasts a top-class gym called The Greenhouse and outdoor activities include 25 acres of parkland with pitches for pretty well everything you can think of.

There are 40 sports association clubs, which cater for everything from wind-surfing to horse-riding. De Montfort University has a six-hole golf course at Riseholme and swimming pools, football pitches and so on abound. Horse riding is a very popular pursuit at the indoor and outdoor schools near Caythorpe.