WITH eight Paralympic medals to her name, nobody would deny Redditch swimming star Claire Cashmore a well earned break, but she was back in the water enjoying more glory at the British Universities & Colleges Sport Nationals in Sheffield at the weekend.
The three-day event saw more than 6,000 university students in action and Cashmore, who recently received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, won 50m freestyle gold in the Steel City.
The 28-year-old, who won Paralympic gold and silver at last summer’s Games in Rio, represented Northumbria University – where she is studying for a Masters degree in leadership and management – at the UK’s largest multi-sport event.
The Redditch-born star revealed she could not have asked for a better start to life post-Rio.
“It’s great to blow off the cobwebs,” said Cashmore, who is also a three-time World champion.
“I had a long break after Rio so this is my first competition after getting back to training so, while my times aren’t particularly great, it’s good to come back and actually compete again.
“The comeback after Rio is tough. After Rio, I was on a massive high, but when you come back you go on a bit of a lull and get a bit of the post-Paralympic blues.
“I definitely felt that this time, just because you’ve been working for years and years for that one dream. It’s everything your whole life revolves around.
“So then when suddenly it’s done, it’s a case of ‘what’s next?’. I probably didn’t set goals early enough in the season to have something to aim for, so it is tough. But it’s good being back now.”
Hear Claire’s thoughts on the BUCS Nationals:
Cashmore could not be prouder to pull on the Northumbria cap as a thanks for their ongoing support.
“I came to BUCS just wanting to do my best. There was less pressure this time on me because I’m not fit at all, so it was just a case of coming along and trying to get as many points as possible for Team Northumbria,” she added.
“I want to give them something back because they have given me so much. They have really invested a lot in Paralympic athletes.
“BUCS Nationals is a fantastic opportunity for anyone, whether it’s those who just want to take part or those at the real elite level, which I think is fantastic that they are all under one roof.
“To have all the sports competing on the same weekend makes it like a mini-Olympic or Paralympic Games which is fantastic.”
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, organising leagues and competitions for more than 150 institutions across 52 different sports.
BUCS Nationals is the UK’s largest annual multi-sport event, bringing more than 6,000 athletes to Sheffield to compete in nine sports.