My life as a UCL elite athlete, part 1

4 May 2012

UCL Law student Abigail Irozuru describes the challenges and rewards of being a UCL Elite Athlete.

Being a student-athlete

abigail profile small

I’m sure you can imagine the average university student’s life to be filled with a lot of alcohol, partying, hangovers, excessive examination cramming and only-just-met essay deadlines! For me, though I regularly hear the well-known phrase: ‘these are the best years of your life’ and just think to myself you have no idea! I am currently in my final year studying a Law LLB degree at UCL and am also hoping to participate in the long jump event in London 2012.

I can’t enjoy the party lifestyle or attend random social gatherings. I even remember how sad I felt when I had to miss our ‘girly holiday’ at the end of sixth-form to celebrate the end of school and new beginnings as we all parted ways to go to university.

If there are gatherings that I can attend I have to forfeit the goodies that adorn the table – chocolate, pizza, cake etc. But, there is no way that I can feel sorry for myself when I realise the end result of these sacrifices….

Fewer fatty foods, late nights and less partying equates to more personal bests, more invitations to large-scale international competitions, more competitions abroad and more athletics success! The ultimate success, of course, this year would be to wear the Olympic Kit, competing on behalf of my country this summer in front of a home crowd!

Injury v Passion!

abigail long jump in air small

I haven’t met a single athlete who hasn’t suffered at least one injury. But, realising this doesn’t make the situation any better once your body decides to give up in one way or another.

For me, it has been a constant battle beginning from my second year in the sport at the age of 16 and continuing throughout my career. These include: numerous hamstring tears, a fractured ankle, Achilles and patellar tendonopathy, torn abdominal muscles, calf muscle tears… and this list could go on for a long while, but I’ll stop before I bore you!

Thankfully, I have been able to train since September 2011 injury-free, which definitely bodes well for my upcoming Olympic preparations. 

All I can say is that if it weren’t for my absolute 100% passion for my event I would most definitely not be competing right now! I wake up at 5.30am on some mornings to get to training; I stay up through the night in order to find the hours to balance my degree and my athletics; I pray for 27-hour days…

Can you imagine that I am so passionate about athletics that I will be aiming to focus on it full-time when I graduate, instead of entering a financially-secure and certainly more profitable legal profession?!

It may seem to most that passion is synonymous with madness; but to me, the word is synonymous with an unswerving perseverance, discipline and a determination to do anything to achieve the end goal!   

Amazingly, my friend sent me this message, which I feel to be rather poignant to this blog and would very accurately sum up why I haven’t yet given up on my dream:

Jacob Riis once said: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it – but all that had gone before.”

What a great lesson in perseverance!