In October last year we launched the Yellow Jersey University Triathlon Scholarship. The scholarship was launched with the aim of encouraging more students to both take up and keep up triathlon at university level, as research has shown a drop in participation at that point.
Our judging panel of industry experts received almost 100 applications from across the UK and post-grad dental student, Laura Smith from the University of Manchester was the standout winner.
Laura got into triathlon whilst studying for her first degree at the University of Birmingham. From the get go, she was hooked on the variety and social side of the sport, enjoying an extensive range of training opportunities provided by the university’s club and performance squad. Since then Laura has gone on to race as an age group triathlete and duathlete. She won the Dambuster Duathlon in 2017, raced in the AG World Champs in Cozumel (2016) and finished in the top-10 overall at the British Standard Distance Championships in Leeds last year. What really stood out with Laura however was how much she puts back into the sport – she’s already set up one club and is about to start a second one and she is constantly mentoring and encouraging newer triathletes due to her passion for the sport – she’s even set up a coaching business.
We caught up with Laura to find out more.
What does winning the scholarship mean to you?
It was fantastic to hear that I had won the scholarship, especially knowing the competition with over 100 applicants. That said, it’s great to see so many passionate student triathletes across the UK. The scholarship means that not only will I be able to progress in my own training and racing but I can use the support to showcase just how good triathlon is for all. At present, the University of Manchester doesn’t have a triathlon club so one of my goals for 2018 is to integrate the separate cycling, swimming and athletics clubs and start a triathlon club. Taking some of the financial pressure away means that I can also make sure I have time to do my dental studies!
Why do you want more students and young people to get involved in triathlon?
Triathlon is such a great opportunity to travel, meet new people, train, and compete. Particularly at university, it provides a welcome break from your studies and you can make friends from outside your course. It has brought so much excitement and variety to my life which I love sharing with others.
What has been your most memorable race so far?
My most memorable race has to be the 2016 Age Group World Triathlon Championships in Cozumel. It was an absolutely amazing experience which I shared with my family, who came along to support and soak up the sun. The atmosphere of the event was incredible and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my free time on a taper week.
How do you spend your free time outside of triathlon?
When I’m not studying, coaching at my company Rocket Coaching, or training I make it a priority to catch up with family and friends. They are pretty active so it usually involves some sort of alternative sporting activity (my younger sister is an avid mountaineer so rock climbing is always a suggestion).
Which is your favourite discipline and why?
That’s a no-brainer… running! As a previous middle-distance runner, I’ve never lost my love of the sport. I enjoy the simplicity of being able to slip on a pair of trainers and go for a run regardless of where you are.
Who’s your sporting inspiration?
My sporting inspiration would have to be Chrissie Wellington. Her journey to success is a reminder of how it is never too late to succeed. The fact that she fell in love with triathlon a little later than most professionals is a great story that most individuals (including myself) can relate too.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Make sure you enjoy it and not just endure it.
You will never look back in years to come and remember that dull 3 hour turbo session or how hard a swim set was. You will look back and remember the day you had to pack your friend’s tyre out with energy gels to get them home after a cycling disaster, or the time you ran through the woods and ended up lost in the dark. So, make memories and enjoy the process!
What would be your bucket list race?
One day I would love to do the Alpe D’heux Long Distance Triathlon. I was on holiday there a few years ago before I had started triathlon and I couldn’t believe that people would actually sign up for such a thing. Now I look back and think, what a great challenge!
Scholarship applications for 2019 will open at the end of this year, so if you are, or know, a student who would be interested in entering then watch this space!
This year’s scholarship included an enviable prize of:
- £1,000 cash prize to put towards your 2018 triathlon goals
- One year’s Yellow Jersey Bicycle Insurance and Travel Insurance
- A session with a member of the British Triathlon development team
- One year’s Training Peaks subscription
- A personalised Kit Brix Triathlon bag
- A ROKA kit bundle
- A year’s supply of SIS sports nutrition products and access to a world class nutritionist
- Entry to a Castle Triathlon Series event of choice
The scholarship was judged by:
- Ryan Georgiades – MD of Yellow Jersey
- Gary Roethenbaugh – Triathlon Industries Association
- Jodie Stimpson – Pro Triathlete
- John Levison – Editor of Tri 247
- Oliver Herald – lead for Children and Young People at British Triathlon
- Brian Adcock – MD of Castle Triathlon Series