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The University of Southampton

Going for gold

As the world’s attention turns to Rio, the University will be playing a major role in the Games in 2016.

From participation in the Games themselves, through to cutting-edge research informing athletes and coaches of the future, Southampton staff, students and alumni are contributing in many ways to the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Olympic legacy.

Wind tunnel

Engineering sporting excellence

The University of Southampton has over five decades of research and development expertise in the high technology world of performance sport.

Student sailor at London 2012

Our Olympic people

Southampton staff, students and alumni will be competing, discussing and influencing the Games.

Student swimming

Sport at Southampton

The University offers a wide-ranging programme of sport for all levels, from beginners to elite athletes.

Our athletes

A number of our students and alumni will be competing in this year's Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Southampton alumnus and Cypriot medal-winner Pavlos Kontides will be aiming high at this year's games, as well as student and sailing competitor Lijia ‘Lily’ Xu, amongst others.

Meet our athletes

Our research and Rio


In elite sport, a fraction of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing. Southampton engineers bring together science and sports to optimise the performance of British athletes.

Researchers at the Performance Sports Engineering Laboratory (PSEL) and the Wolfson Unit at the University have made a unique contribution to the success of elite sport in the UK, working with the English Institute of Sport (formerly UK Sport) to provide technical support for elite athletes.

Some members of the PSEL team
Some members of the PSEL team

“We provide engineering insight and solutions to enable coaches to assess the performance of their athletes and select better techniques and equipment,” says Professor Stephen Turnock, Director of the PSEL. Through this work, the team has achieved an international reputation for applying innovative engineering design and aerodynamics performance sports.

The University has long history for supporting elite British athletes in both winter and summer sports. Their expertise helped elite swimmers and cyclists from Britain to achieve success at London 2012, and skeleton athletes Amy Williams and Lizzy Yarnold win their gold medals in 2010 and 2014.

Read more about our research in this area in an interview with Professor Stephen Turnock.

Read the interview with Stephen Turnock
Explore the PSEL

Economic impact

Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, provides an insight on the economic impact of the Olympic Games on cities.

Pressures of elite sport

Dr Nick Maguire, Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology, explains how this pressure can build for elite athletes competing at the highest level and what happens when they can’t deal with it.

Contributing to elite sport

Cutting-edge research from the PSEL has contributed to British success in winning gold medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Vancouver and London. Find out more about our contribution.

The Wolfson Unit

The Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics provides consultancy and testing to ensure that industries can benefit from our expertise and facilities. The unit is well known for its ship model testing and sailing yacht performance software.

The R. J. Mitchell Wind Tunnel

Research carried out in the RJ Mitchell Wind Tunnel has assisted British elite athletes in their preparation for major sporting competitions.

Explore our wind tunnel

Our athletic students and alumni

This year, Southampton students and alumni will be competing in Brazil.

Lily Xu

Southampton student Lijia ‘Lily’ Xu achieved a gold medal in sailing for China in London 2012, and will be aiming for further success in Brazil this summer.

Southampton student Lijia ‘Lily’ Xu
Southampton student Lijia ‘Lily’ Xu

Pavlos Kontides

Pavlos Kontides graduated from BSc Ship Science in 2013, one year after he took silver for Cyprus in the Laser Class sailing event at London 2012. Pavlos will be competing again in this year's Games.

Ben Saxton

Ben Saxton, 2011 graduate with a BSc in Business Studies, is looking to make history in Rio by sailing in the multi-hull Nacra 17 class of boat which makes its Olympic debut in 2016.

Giles Scott

Giles Scott, 2008 graduate with a BSc in Geography and Geology, is following in the footsteps of British sailing's Sir Ben Ainslie in his quest for gold in the Finn class of sailing boat in Rio.

Alison Young

Alison Young is a graduate with a First Class Honours in Civil Engineering in 2008 and is currently competing for gold Rio as the reigning world champion in the Women’s Laser Radial class of sailing boat.

A number of successful Olympic athletes from past games are also alumni of the University.

We provide engineering insight and solutions to enable coaches to assess the performance of their athletes and select better techniques and equipment.

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