Development & Alumni Relations Office 

QUEEN’S GRADUATES ON THEIR MARKS FOR the TOKYO OLYMPIC and paralympic GAMES!  Olympic rings set in city nightscape, with (inset) images of 5 Queen's alumni Olympians

08 July 2021

A Queen's Aerospace Engineering Master’s graduate, a BA French and Spanish alumna, a Law and Hispanic Studies graduate and two medical alumni, are among those representing Team Ireland, Team GB and Paralympics GB at the COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Dr Philip Doyle (pictured left), from Banbridge and Dr Paul G Pollock (2nd from left) from Holywood will both compete for Team Ireland, while Rebecca Edwards (centre) from Aughnacloy and Kirsty Hegarty (2nd from right) from Craigavon will line out for Team GB later this month. James MacSorley (right) will compete in the Paralympic Games for Paralympics GB in August.

Philip graduated with a MB BCh BAO in Medicine from Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences in 2018. He has spent much of the last 12 months working in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and then the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, mainly in A&E and surgical departments but on occasion in COVID-19 wards, when his rowing training had to take a back seat.

He was named last month as part of a 13-strong rowing team – Rowing Ireland’s largest selection ever in Olympic history – and will compete in the Men’s Double Scull.   

Marathon runner and fellow County Down medic, Dr Paul Pollock (BSc Physiology 2008, MB 2010) – who competed at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, finishing the marathon in 32nd position – will race again at the same distance in Japan.

Speaking last month about his selection to Adam McKendry in the Belfast Telegraph, Paul said:

“It is a real honour to compete in the Tokyo Olympics for Team Ireland.

“I'm excited about being based in the city of Sapporo, which is that extra bit special for having already hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, and I'm looking forward to the welcome that we will get.

“It will be a very different experience of course, without any spectators, but we are there to perform to our best and I am extremely proud to be part of the team.”

When her name was formally announced in January, Kirsty Hegarty (née Barr), who currently lives in Belfast, was the first Northern Ireland athlete selected on Team GB for Tokyo. The holder of countless individual and team Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals – at UK, international and world level – Kirsty is one of the UK’s most talented athletes and is deemed to have every chance of realising her potential in major competitions.

Competing in what is known as Olympic Trap – more commonly referred to as clay pigeon shooting – the 2012 Master’s Aerospace Engineering graduate spoke to Queen’s in April about her hopes for Tokyo.

“As an athlete you attend so many more competitions than you medal or even final at. And although you only want to remember those where you enjoyed success, it is every knock back that has made you change, develop and question – without losing your determination – that makes you into a winner.

“It has taken many years of hard work and I know my family has given up so much to make this a possibility for me, so by getting there I will be able to say thanks on the biggest stage possible.”

The next Queen’s graduate stepping onto the plane for Tokyo is Team GB rower, Rebecca Edwards from Aughnacloy. When she takes her place in the women's eight on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay later this month, it will be the culmination of an incredible journey which started at Queen’s back in 2012, for the young woman from County Tyrone.

Interviewed for the alumni website last month, Rebecca said she was eagerly looking forward to competing on the world’s biggest sporting stage, having dreamt of being an Olympic athlete from early childhood.

“It might sound like a strange thing to say but I’m really looking forward to the pressure and the nerves that will come with competing at this level,” she said.

“I just can’t wait to pull on my rowing Lycra with the Olympic rings on it and to sit on the start line knowing that I have done everything within my power to produce the best performance of my life so far.”

Law and Hispanic Studies graduate (LLB 2017) James MacSorley will join the World Number 1 rated Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Team to compete in his first Paralympic Games in Tokyo. James is already a double Gold World Champion, having first won Gold in the U23 World Championships in 2017 with the GB team, a feat which he followed up with Gold at the 2018 World Championships in 2018.

The talented wheelchair basketball star, who plays his club games for ADM Econy Gran Canaria in Spain, recently posted on his LinkedIn account:

“It has been a long few years, and it was by no means the most conventional path to my first Paralympics but I'm so glad to say that all the hard work and sacrifice have paid off and that I am one step closer to achieving a dream I have had since I was 6 years old.

"I am more aware than ever that I am very fortunate to have had the opportunities that I have had, and for the people who I have had around me, believing in me and supporting me every step of the way. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen.”

The Wheelchair Basketball Team play their opening game on 26th August against Algeria and face tough opposition at the group stages. They are hoping that their experience as reigning European and World Champions will help them clinch Olympic Gold.

Commenting on the University’s Tokyo representation, Queen’s Development and Engagement Manager (Queen’s Sport), Paddy Gilmore, said:

“Queen’s is hugely proud of our five Olympians, which is two more than Rio 2016!

“While the past 16 months has been really difficult for everyone, it has been a particularly testing time for athletes who had to prepare for the trip to Japan in 2020, only for their hopes to be dashed when the Games had to be postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of them then had to keep competitively fit and mentally ready – eventually fine-tuning their preparations for a second time – for the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games this month and next, which will be contested under less than ideal circumstances.

“Phil, Paul, Kirsty, Rebecca and James have each managed to successfully combine sport with busy careers and their selection for Tokyo is a huge testament to all their hard work, determination and dedication.

“This is a truly wonderful achievement and we wish all five of them well over the coming weeks of competition, in what will be a very different Olympic experience – without international supporters for one thing – but one which they will undoubtedly always remember,” added Paddy.

If you would like to support the next generation of athletes at Queen’s visit the Queen’s Foundation website or contact Paddy Gilmore, Queen’s Development and Engagement Manager, Queen’s Sport.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast.

Photo credits: Olympic rings in Tokyo (by Ryunosuke Kikuno), courtesy of Unsplash (main image); 2020, Tokyo winner’s garland by Viktar Masalovich from Pixabay (headline).

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