Determined Selston climber Billy Ridal says he is not prepared to let glory escape his grasp when he defends a national title this weekend.
The 19-year-old Ridal was crowned men’s champion at last year’s British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Nationals event in what was his first year as a student at Sheffield Hallam University.
Now he is one of more than 6,000 students from across the country descending on the Steel City for three action-packed days of sport. And for the former Bramcote Park School pupil, it’s a case of victory or nothing as he prepares to face old foes in pursuit of triumph.
“I’m really excited for this year’s Nationals,” said Ridal, who studies mechanical engineering. “Last year, it was a fun event and my first year of doing it. I remember the crowd being really great, so hopefully it will be more of the same this year.
“My goal is to retain the title. I wasn’t surprised to win last year. I knew that it was possible, but I was definitely very happy to do it.
“I wasn’t expecting to win heading into it, but this year, I know there are some new people coming in who will be strong, so I think it is going to be difficult to try and achieve the title again.
“I have competed in youth competitions for quite a long time and I know who is coming through from the youth scene into university age now.”
BUCS Nationals is the UK’s largest annual multi-sport event, and has provided a building block in the careers of many professional athletes.
For Ridal, who is ranked fourth in the country for lead climbing and bouldering, BUCS is also the perfect platform from which to develop his sport.
“I think BUCS Nationals is a really good event,” he said. “Some competitions don’t necessarily have a good atmosphere, but BUCS is huge and there is always a positive, buzzing feel. It is motivational, as well as fun.
“I think it’s hugely beneficial to the university experience. For me personally, I chose Sheffield because of my climbing, so I think sport is as important as studying.”
BRITISH Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for higher education 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, taking more than 6,000 athletes to Sheffield to compete in nine sports.