There is less than a month to go until BUCS Big Wednesday, university sport’s showpiece event. Every year, the best university teams descend on Nottingham to compete for Championship and Trophy titles in every discipline ranging from American football to volleyball.
Team Durham have experienced huge success at the finals in recent years. They finished third in the medals table last year as they brought home gold in five of the 10 finals played on the day. The year before that, 13 teams were victorious in their finals as a record-breaking 18 made the journey south for the highlight of the team sports calendar.
With over 20 teams still in the running for Championship and Trophy titles across nine sports at the time of writing, Durham are angling for even greater success this year.
The women’s basketball team won silver in Nottingham last year, narrowly losing the Championship final against local rivals Northumbria 80-86 with the score tied at 79-79 in the dying minutes. This year, the men’s 1s hope to take up their mantle and go one better.
They face an even bigger derby against Newcastle in the Championship semi-finals on 11 March. Having won all but one of their 10 games en route to the Premier Division title, they will face East London or fierce rivals Loughborough in the final if they get through. Their one loss this season? Loughborough.
Fencing has been a regular source of titles for Durham at Big Wednesday, having contributed three gold medals in as many years. The men took the Championship by two points last year against Edinburgh, and this year both men and women are still in the running.
Having beaten King’s College in the quarter-finals, the men’s 1s will have to overcome Nottingham in the semi-finals on 11 March to make it to the final against Bath or UCL. The women’s 1s will face Oxford on the same day after getting past Imperial, with the prospect of a final against Bristol or Edinburgh.
In football, the women’s 1s will have been disappointed not to make finals day last year after lifting the Championship trophy two years running in 2017 and 2018.
They have the chance to put their name back on the cup this season, but first they must dispatch the University of Hertfordshire in the semi-finals. That would set up a mouth- watering final against local rivals Northumbria or arch-enemies Loughborough.
Hockey is the surest guarantee of a medal for Durham at Big Wednesday, with five teams still on course to win gold in the Championship, Trophy and Vase competitions.
The men’s first team have experienced all the highs and lows of the finals in the past two seasons. Last year they had the heartbreak of losing on penalty strokes to Exeter in the Championship final, but the year before that they won an epic tie against Nottingham Trent on penalties themselves to bring home the title. Their semi-final opponents are Nottingham, with a potential final against – who else? – Nottingham Trent or Exeter.
It was the women’s 2s who kicked off that hugely successful day for Team Durham at the 2018 finals by securing the Trophy against Birmingham, and this year they are also on course for the final. The women’s 1s, meanwhile, clash with Loughborough in the ICG Championship semi-finals on 11 March. Nottingham or Edinburgh await them in the final.
The lacrosse women’s 1s are looking to make it three consecutive Championship titles, having comfortably dismantled Cambridge in the 2018 and 2019 finals. They beat Newcastle in a tense local derby in the quarter-finals and face Oxford in the semi-finals. Beat them, and they will book their place in the final against Exeter or hosts Nottingham.
The men’s 1s won gold in style last year, seeing off Nottingham Trent 12-6. The Palatinates could face them again in the Championship final if they can beat the other Nottingham side on 11 March, having steamed past Swansea and Bath in the first two knockout rounds.
It will be a renewal of local rivalries in the women’s volleyball Championship semi- finals as the first team face up to Northumbria, the team they beat 3-1 to claim gold in last year’s final. Defeating the 2019 runners-up in the semis would be a huge statement of intent ahead of a final against southern opposition in Bournemouth or East London.
The men’s 1s, meanwhile, will hope to make it to Nottingham and avenge their 3-0 loss to Essex last time out in the Championship final. They face East London in the semi-finals, having beaten Newcastle, and a huge tie awaits them in the final against either Essex or Northumbria.
Whatever happens between now and 24 March, this year’s BUCS Big Wednesday promises yet more silverware for Team Durham.
Image: Paul Gibbon