Pushed back one year due to the pandemic and with no spectators, Tokyo 2020 was like no other Olympics. 

Despite the lack of spectators and change in practices, athletes put on sensational performances and we couldn’t have been prouder to see Essex graduates representing their nations and inspiring others with their infectious Olympic spirit.  

Cyclist Laura Kenny was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Essex in 2013 and when presented to the Chancellor, Professor Chris Cooper said: “Rumour has it that she might have the long-term aim of eclipsing Sir Chris Hoy as the country’s most successful ever Olympian.” Eight years later, she’s become just that.  

Taking silver in the women’s team pursuit and making history by winning gold in the first women’s madison race, Laura has become the most successful British female Olympian of all time, and the first woman to win a gold medal at three consecutive games.  

In the gymnastics arena, Max Whitlock successfully defended his Olympic title on the pommel horse, earning his third gold medal and strengthening his name as Great Britain’s most successful Olympic gymnast. Recognising and celebrating Max’s commitment, tenacity, courage, and passion, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2019.  

Over in Odaiba Marine Park, Oussama Mellouli competed in his sixth Olympic games (yes, you read that right). The University of Essex Online graduate competed in the Marathon swimming, placing 20 out of 28. Representing his home country of Tunisia, Oussama made his Olympic debut at Sydney 2000 and has since gone on to compete in every subsequent Olympics to date. Already a gold medallist in the 1,500m freestyle at Beijing 2008, he went on to win bronze in 1,500m freestyle and gold in 10km open water swimming at London 2012, becoming the first swimmer to win medals in both pool and open water swimming events at the same Olympics.  

All while training for competitive swimming, Oussama studied an MBA with the University of Essex Online, graduating in 2017. Oussama’s incredible performance over the years makes him one of only four swimmers to have ever competed in six separate Olympic Games. And he hasn’t ruled out a seventh… 

Will we see them again at Paris 2024? Let’s hope so, but in the meantime here’s to the next generation undoubtedly inspired by the dedication, passion and strength of these very special Essex alumni.