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Naomi Riches MBE returns to Bucks to open our new multi-million pound centre.

Bucks graduate Naomi Riches MBE ‘proud’ to open University’s multi-million pound centre.

Paralympian Naomi Riches MBE, who graduated in 2006 and was awarded an honorary Master’s in 2010, returned to Buckinghamshire New University (25 February) to open its new Human Performance, Exercise and Wellbeing Centre. The new facility is already being used by around 270 students following undergraduate programmes including Sports Therapy, Sport and Exercise Science, Sports Psychology, Exercise Health and Fitness Management, Dance and Performance as well as MSc Health Rehabilitation and Exercise students.Professor Rebecca Bunting and Naomi Riches officially open the new Centre.

Bucks New University is one of only a small number of universities to have 3D motion-capture technology with force platforms purpose built into the fabric of the building. The software, similar to that used in CGI sequences in the film industry, interacts with reflective dots placed at strategic places on the body to capture an athlete’s motion on the centre’s three-lane running track. The 3D image and force data identifies how an athlete’s limbs and joints can be optimised for more efficient and faster movement or to prevent injury. An isokinetic dynamometer measures ranges of movement forces and the muscle strength of various muscles in the body. Neurotraker equipment, employed by the Army to train snipers, is used to develop an athlete’s peripheral vision. University staff have worked with goalkeepers at professional football clubs to help train perceptual-cognitive ability.

The Centre’s teaching staff have already developed partnerships with Stoke Mandeville Hospital and two consultants at Wycombe Hospital. Dr Mark Stone, senior lecturer in Sports Science, is working with cardiac consultant Dr Piers Clifford to research the effect of concurrent exercise training on the autonomic function of heart failure in cardiac patients. Sport Therapy course leader Kevin Campbell-Karn is developing collaborative research opportunities with consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Bhupinder Mann, who is also helping to develop multidisciplinary perspectives in the curriculum.

Students with Vice-Chancellor Professor Rebecca Bunting and paralympian Naomi Riches MBE.

Professor Rebecca Bunting, Vice-Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University said:

“We are very excited about this multi-million pound development which provides world class facilities for our students and staff. It is designed with technology that puts our students at the forefront of knowledge and practice as they learn to use leading edge research tools for sport, exercise and therapy.

“The potential for teaching, research and professional practice is enormous and we look forward to developing further our partnerships. The centre is an excellent example of the University’s role as an anchor institution within our local area and testimony to collaborative working and purposeful endeavour. I am enormously proud of what we have achieved and what we will go on to achieve.”

The Centre has attracted the attention of coaches of high performance athletes and teams looking to improve their athletic performance including Formula One, England Touch Rugby Women’s squad, triathletes and professional footballers from Watford FC and Wycombe Wanderers.

The Human Performance, Exercise and Wellbeing Centre launch.

Naomi Riches MBE, who first began rowing in 2004 during her time at University, said:

“I was delighted to officially open the new centre. I learnt so much at Bucks about how to balance my training commitments with studying for my degree in Designed Metalwork and Jewellery. The support I received from my tutors and fellow students whilst I was at Bucks, and during the early years of my rowing career, is part of what set me on the road to success: winning a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and then a Gold at London 2012.


“I am so proud to have graduated from Bucks and hope I can inspire other students as they prepare to enter the world of work. The facilities in the centre are just what athletes need to prevent injury and improve their performance. The University is helping to create the next generation of successful athletes. Being able to come back to Bucks and be part of this exciting new facility is a real honour. It’s wonderful for me to have the opportunity to give something back.”

Anchen Smit, a first-year student on the Sports Therapy programme said: “I’m excited about using the centre to enhance my skills as the facilities mean I can conduct experiments that wouldn’t be possible at other universities. My lecturers are dedicated to helping us become the best possible graduate Sport Therapists and they organise work experience which will enhance our employment opportunities when we enter the profession.”

Naomi Riches watches a student test out the new facilities.

A Sports and Wellbeing Clinic will open to the public in the summer offering competitive rates for the treatment of injuries. Sue West, Dean of the Faculty of Society & Health at Bucks New University, said:

“As well as providing a service to the local community, the clinic will enhance the learning experience of our students on the Sports Therapy degree programme.  Students will learn through observing teaching staff as they treat real patients and will have opportunities for hands-on practice during the clinics.”

Pictures: Vice-Chancellor Professor Rebecca Bunting, graduate and Paralympian Naomi Riches, and invited guests, students, staff were at the official opening of the Human Performance, Exercise and Wellbeing Centre.

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