Hilary term is well underway and preparations for upcoming varsity matches, V-Day, are afoot. Not content with being slaves to their desks, some of Oxford’s great minds apply themselves not only in the academic field, but also in the sporting arena. Having put in the hard work during the dark winter days, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Oxford’s sports teams.
In the second of our Blue Bird exclusives, we introduce some of the Vincent’s Scholars who are preparing for their own Varsity matches.
For more information on the Vincent’s Awards, please click here.
Vincent’s scholarships are awarded to outstanding scholar-athletes. This commitment to excellence is typified by Cian, who combines an extremely intense medical degree with a high-pressure leadership role on the pitch. Not only did he captain the Blues team to a Varsity Match victory, but he has himself published a number of papers in academic journals.
I love those classic Oxford days where you seem to need to be here, there and everywhere. Playing sport, having a tutorial, seeing friends, having a meeting. They’re my favourite days.
Any athlete who has competed at a reasonable level knows the important of pre-match rituals. Michael Phelps was known to listen to a collection of Eminem songs pre-race, Serena Williams refused to change her socks once she started a tournament, and Usain Bolt would look to the sky, kiss his hand and point at the heavens.
I tend to try and find a mirror in the changing room pre-match and give myself a good stare down. Wait to see my pupils dilate a bit with the adrenaline and then I know I’m ready for the match.
This degree of professionalism and focus epitomises Cian’s approach. This is not to say that he is free from his own sporting demons. Once Cian is on the pitch you might catch him glancing over his shoulder at his own goal.
I’ll look at both corner flags behind me just before kick off to orientate myself on the pitch. Probably comes from a particularly traumatising training session as a child where I got the ball, ran through the whole team and smacked it into the top corner … of my own goal.
While an individual talent, the importance of his teammates is not lost on Cian. When asked about his greatest sporting moments he constantly comes back to his experiences of Varsity Football.
To throw so much of your and your teammates’ lives at one goal for those few months, with everything else that’s going on at Oxford, and for you to smash it in front of that crowd is just the most amazing feeling.
We are definitely excited to see what is to come this season for Cian.
Oxford is famous for many things. One of these things is rowing. Building on the many successes of the Rowing Clubs in Oxford, Vincent’s has awarded Sooraj an award for his performances in Lightweight Rowing.
Sooraj was part of the quartet that finished 4th at the British Universities Championships in 2017. This performance saw him selected for the GB Universities Rowing team where he travelled to Serbia and gained his first international appearance.
But how did it all start for Sooraj?
I learned how to row at my college in my first year. It was a cracking way to get involved with college, a good bunch to go on crew dates with, and the training was so much fun. I really enjoyed the meritocratic nature of college rowing in Oxford – if you wanted to get better, you just worked harder and the results are evident very quickly.
To come from a non-rowing background and still achieve international recognition takes a particular type of person. One who is willing to put themselves through a lot of suffering in order to achieve. These personal qualities are essential to Sooraj’s identity, and are the lessons he is keen to leave to younger athletes.
Throw yourself into it and take as much as possible from the process. Training hard teaches you so much about yourself, your limits, and how to get the most out of yourself. At times you’ll want to quit and spend that extra morning in bed, but at the end, no matter the outcome of the race or match, you’ll be glad you didn’t
The award that Sooraj receives is credit to his determination to get the best out of himself. The funding has been essential in making Sooraj’s rowing career a success.
The Vincent’s awards are fantastic – helping elite athletes commit to their sports. They alleviate some of the stress that comes with trying to fund what can often seem like an all-consuming venture.
Not content with just one sport, this talented cyclist decided to take up running and swimming because “it just wasn’t hard enough“.
Given this relatively recent change, What is her greatest achievement?
I probably have to say coming second as a Junior woman in the ETU European Cup Final 2016 in Alanya, Turkey. But secretly it was pretty great to be part of the Women’s Blues Triathlon team who took an unprecedented win over the Cambridge Men’s Blues team last year!
Lucy has taken to triathlon like a fish to water, winning international medals as a junior athlete. Totally smashing the Varsity match with two other Oxford Athletes also meant that the Oxford Women’s team broke all gender barriers by beating the Cambridge Men’s Blues team!
Lucy is a vibrant and positive person. The Blue Bird was therefore shocked to hear how many things make her blood boil.
I could spend a long time writing about how much slow people in the fast lane in the swimming pool annoy me.
I really hate sugar cubes, because I think sugar should be continuous and not discrete (I have spent a long time thinking about this).
Lastly, I hate awkward silences more than anything and I will fill them with any sort of ridiculous comments that come to mind. My tutorial partners over the years have learned to use this to their advantage and it has resulted in most of my tutors thinking I’m a total idiot.
Salad is also not a proper meal on it’s own no matter how many croutons people add to it.
Those pesky swimmers who can’t keep up with Lucy better watch out!
Clearly not fueled by salads nor sugar cubes, what does a typical day look like for an international triathlete?
Lucy has put the award to good use and uses the funds to ensure the support of a coach who can help her maintain her training and plan for future events.
“A lot of people run a race to see who is the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more” Steve Prefontaine
This Australian roadrunner has a need for speed, and apparently, pain. The quote above typifies Issy’s approach to training, working harder than her competitors and pushing herself and those around her to new limits.
I think the most inspiring athletes are not the ones who are just born with the most talent, but the ones who can push themselves to such an extreme level in order to achieve their goals.
Unfortunately, Issy’s winter season has been beset with an injury. However, this has simply changed her training plan rather than stopped it. Working hard in the gym, the Vincent’s award has helped to give Issy the support she needs to get back racing fit.
The award has provided me with an amazing opportunity to engage with strength and rehabilitation services that I would otherwise have had a hard time accessing, and are so essential when training at a high level.
A rapid 800m runner, Issy was ranked as the 17th fastest female in Australia for 2016. Her current personal best is 2:06, a blistering pace that helped her finish as the 10th Australian in the 2016 National Championships.
While here at Oxford, and with the help of the Vincent’s award, Issy has high hopes for what she can achieve.
My long-term goal is to represent Australia at a major international championship.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, you’d be foolish to bet against her.
On top of her commitment to her own sporting career, Isabelle has also sought to use her passion for Mathematics and Computing to encourage other women to enter and excel in STEM fields. A speaker for the STEM Sista group in South Australia, Issy has helped high-school aged girls achieve their potential in traditionally male-dominated fields.
But how does she relax?
My personal best was actually set after playing Cards Against Humanity all day. It was a great way to relax!
Good luck to our scholars and all athletes in upcoming Varsity matches