Keeping the goal in sight
Is it possible to pursue elite sports and study at the same time? We asked Uppsala students Lina Sjöberg, double mini-trampoline world champion, and Johanna Heldin, gold medallist at the European Curling Championships. The answer is yes, even if it demands a good deal of planning and personal drive.
Lina Sjöberg is in the eighth semester of the law programme and is the world champion in double mini-trampoline (DMT). She is also the first, and to date only, woman in the world to have done a triple vault onto the DMT, in the first part of the jump sequence.
“There’s an outdated idea that girls are too weak to manage a triple vault. ‘Why shouldn’t we manage it?’ I thought and began practising. It’s an incredibly good feeling to realise how much you can do.”
Combining studies with 15 hours of training a week, plus competition days, is also a challenge.
“The teachers are understanding and the study counsellors really try to help. But I have to be very active myself to perhaps change seminar times or get supplementary assignments when I’m away competing.”
At times, it can be tough financially. You don’t make money from DMT. So Lina was happy to become one of the first sports scholarship recipients at Uppsala University in 2016.
“It was definitely a welcome contribution to my travel and competition expenses.”
Through sports, Lina knows that she has developed her ability to work in a goal-oriented way. This rubs off on her studies even if she wishes she had more time for the books. But although the pace is high both in training and in her studies, she feels that she relaxes from the one when she works with the other.
“I never get stuck in anything around the clock. When I go to train, I leave my studies behind and vice versa. The variation feels good mentally.”
She looks forward to at least another five years of active competition and she thinks a lot about how to reconcile this with a future professional life.
“It feels important to find an employer who understands competition and values my characteristics, such as being focused and very goal-oriented. It’s not only my grades that show what I’m capable of.”
Johanna Heldin is in the ninth semester of the medicine programme and trains and competes in curling at the elite level. In autumn 2018, she was part of the team that won the gold medal in the European Championship.
Over the years, it has become easier to pursue both studies and elite sports, according to Johanna.
“Two improvements that the programme committee for the medicine programme has implemented are that it’s now possible to study one year’s courses over two years and that elite sports are a valid reason to request a clinical placement close to Uppsala. It means a great deal to me since the hardest thing is getting everything to work in terms of time.”
Johanna feels that she has received a lot of support from her study counsellor and that virtually all of the teachers are flexible and interested in finding solutions. She trains about ten hours in a regular week, and more in a competition week, so it requires planning and a lot of personal initiative to pursue both studies and sports.
“At the same time, it’s nice to have more than one thing to focus on. One serves as a break from the other.”
Like Lina, Johanna was one of the first sports scholarship recipients in 2016.
“Of course, a commitment to elite sports makes it hard to find time for a student job, so it was really welcome.”
In terms of professional life, Johanna believes that she will choose the research track. Recently, sports medicine and allergy medicine have begun to look particularly likely. Sport has given her experiences that she clearly sees she can put to use outside the rink – tactics, how group dynamics work, practice in mental and physical endurance, focus and precision.
“The fact that there is always potential for development is very satisfying, both in a profession and in sports. I will carry on curling as long as it’s fun!”
What support does the University provide?
Eva Söderman is head of the Student Health Service and responsible for coordination for student sports issues at Uppsala University:
“We encourage all students to exercise and pursue sports and would like to highlight the students who combine studies and elite sports as good role models. Besides a scholarship programme, we have study counsellors and contact persons both centrally and at the departments who can provide guidance and answer questions about, for example, study planning. We also provide information online and arrange meetings for the elite student athletes on various topics. There, we can also capture needs and wishes from the students.”
19 August 2019