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Olympic Champion Lizzy Yarnold talks about juggling studies with elite sport

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You may be forgiven for thinking that an Olympic, World and European Champion wouldn’t have had many setbacks on the way to stardom. Although, as British Skelton star Lizzy Yarnold tells The National Student exclusively, things haven’t always been easy.

Having failed to make it into her first choice University to study a joint honours degree in Geography and Sports and Exercise Science, Yarnold stuck to her course decision and navigated clearing, settling for a place on a joint honours course in the same subject at the University of Gloucestershire.

“I think it is essential you study something you are passionate about, so I would definitely advise people not to compromise on the subject you want to study just to find a place somewhere,” says Yarnold.

“You have to be diligent in your research and call around and talk to as many people involved as possible. You will get a place so make sure it is the right one for you.”

Yarnold is one of Britain’s most successful winter Olympians. Securing gold in the 2014 Games in Sochi with a winning margin of 0.97 seconds – the largest ever.

Yarnold backed up this success with a Grand Slam season, securing the World and European titles during the 2013/14 campaign.

However, Yarnold acknowledges the progress made during her time at University to set herself up for the success that was to follow, although admits that sacrifices were made to pursue her dream career.

“There were lots of elements of my degree course that have practically helped my career in sport. In general, being at University helps you learn how to manage your time and be organised, an essential part of being an athlete when every minute counts.

“I was accepted onto the Skeleton development programme after my first year at Uni. I only had one year of being full time at Uni, thereafter I was abroad training during the winter and trying to juggle my studies with my sport.

“In hindsight, it was very stressful, it would have been nice to have been able to enjoy Uni a bit more, but then that is a sacrifice I had to make in order to make it in my sport.

“You can do both, you just have to be committed and other things in life will naturally have to take a back seat, but that is the nature of being a professional athlete.”

After taking a year out of the sport to reflect on her future, Yarnold returned to professional competition in December 2016, finishing the World Cup season in 9th.

The 2017/18 season began well for the Brit, securing a third and eight placed finish in the opening two rounds. However, poor results at the Whistler and Innsbruck events have left Yarnold languishing in 13th position, just months before she hopes to become the first British Winter Olympian to retain her title in February’s Games in Russia.  

“It would be unbelievable to achieve it, I just have to keep working hard this season and hope I can pull it out the bag in February."

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons. Flickr Commons, Andy Miah. 

Feature Image shows Lizzy Yarnold winning a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Image above shows Yarnold at the 2017/18 BMW IBSF World Cup race in Lake Placid, Yarnold would go on to take a Bronze medal.

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