In the latest instalment of our scholarship series, where the best athletic talents within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester are showcased, we caught up with Dentistry student and elite Duathlete, Laura Smith…
I definitely don’t fit into the cliché Dental student that ‘always wanted to pursue a career in Dentistry’. I had no idea what I wanted to do after sixth form and so I just fell into a Biochemistry degree because I was fairly decent at Science in school (well, Biology and Chemistry… I was never a born Physicist!). After a year of Biochemistry, I knew that this was not the career for me. I needed a more personable job and not one which heavily featured in a laboratory. I completed my degree nonetheless but began to explore other options.
I knew I wanted a career that encompassed science, artistry, social interactions, and had the potential for career progression. I considered medicine, physiotherapy, and clinical therapists but after shadowing dentist professionals I knew that this was the career for me.
When applying to University, Manchester’s EBL/PBL learning sounded perfect as it would allow me time to fit in training around my studies and the emphasis on early patient experience further attracted me to the University. My partner is a professional triathlete and so it was also important that we had access to good training facilities and being so close to the Peak District couldn’t be more perfect for cycling.
My Duathlon specific training started two years ago after it became apparent that it would be very difficult to perfect the three disciplines of Triathlon and study Dentistry. I’ve always been more of a land animal and so dropping the swimming wasn’t a particularly difficult decision. It actually started to make my training more enjoyable, especially when I no longer had to dive into a freezing cold pool at 5:30am most mornings.
My ability to train effectively has also been helped thanks to the scholarship programme at the University. I initially found out about the scholarship programme on the official University of Manchester website and then followed the guidance to apply online. Gaining a scholarship has made juggling studying and training a more manageable venture. The team are always on hand to help and having access to sporting professionals has enabled me to acquire knowledge which has enhanced my training and racing.
In terms of the course, I found it very intense to begin with and definitely wasn’t prepared for the amount of time I would have to dedicate to studying. It was extremely difficult at first to find the balance between training, studying, working and socialising and I have definitely made mistakes along the way. However, with constant support from my coach, university tutors, and the scholarship team it is getting easier for me.
My Duathlon career has had highs and lows like many athletes will disclose. I’ve had a lot of time out from racing due to injuries which has forced my hand into focusing on the longer distances and Powerman races this upcoming year. Highlights of my career so far have been; gaining a bronze medal at the British Championships, being selected for the GBR elite team, and competing in the most competitive duathlon league worldwide.
At the moment, my main focus is my current rehabilitation from a foot injury that flared up in April. Once I have made a successful comeback to complete training, I’ll be focusing on long-distance events with the long-term aim of gaining a number 1 world-class Powerman ranking.
My advice to any prospective students/athletes is to not put too much pressure on yourself. It’s okay to get it wrong somethings. We are still human. There is so much support available at the University, just make sure that you ask for help when you need it.