Juggling a demanding training schedule while gaining a first class honours degree was an incredible challenge for parathlete Lauren Steadman. But this determined young athlete isn’t stopping there. At the time of this interview, Lauren was preparing to compete in the Rio Paralympics while currently studying for a Master’s.
‘Being a full-time athlete is lovely but I get bored really easily. I have a lot of spare time between training sessions, so I like to fill my brain with something away from the constant stress of sport.
‘My MSc Business and Management course allows me to do this,’ she said. ‘The University has allowed me to be flexible and do it part time over a couple of years.
‘I could finish my dissertation by September but the University have said if it’s too stressful then I’ve got until next April. So I can focus on Rio and then I’ve got six months to complete it.’
Not many students have to deal with this type of schedule clash but 23-year-old Lauren credits her fantastic team in the city for making her the athlete she is today. She has high praise for the continued support of Paul Tilley, Head of Sport and Recreation, whose encouragement has been invaluable and all the academics who have allowed her study schedule to be flexible.
‘I couldn’t have asked for a better university education really. The flexibility has been fantastic and I can’t praise everyone involved enough.’
This is Lauren’s third Olympics, having competed in swimming events in the previous two in Beijing and London. In Rio she will be competing in the paratriathlon; an event making its debut at the 2016 games.
‘I’m excited to be competing in a new event but, for me, it’s just another triathlon except it’s got the Olympic title at stake. I’ve done the course in Fort Copacabana already. It will be hot, it will be flat and fast but a race is a race.’
Lauren, who comes from Peterborough, is the current Paratriathlon World and European Champion but has her sights set on bringing home the coveted gold medal. ‘I love to win, I may get beaten as there’s some really fierce competition but to know that I’ve given it my best shot means everything.
‘I’m in a position now where I am the goal to beat so if I don’t up my game, they’ll have me! I raised the game two years ago and people followed and they matched so I’ve got to raise it again in order to stay ahead.’
Incredibly modest and down-to-earth, Lauren was taken out of her comfort zone when she was one of only six parathletes chosen to model the Team GB kit at the launch event.
‘When you see the pictures, people don’t realise how freezing it was on the shoot. I met the kit designer Stella McCartney, who I would describe as a little eccentric.
‘The official kit launch started the ball rolling with the excitement and build up to Rio. It brings it all to life.’
Lauren’s successful career is paying dividends and she now has a manager who has secured her a range of sponsorships opportunities including a car from Peugeot and contracts with Asics, Oakley and Neutrogena.
‘I never dreamed I’d have a manager. I’m just Lauren, a girl from a small village up north!’
Once Rio is a distant memory and her dissertation has been handed in, what does the future hold for Lauren?
‘A new chapter of my life will begin. I’m unsure whether to stay in the city, switch coaches, find a job or maybe even do a PhD. The answer is currently illusive to me and my focus is purely on Rio at the moment.
‘Sport is my escape so I’m not necessarily going to make it my career. If I’ve had a stressful day then I go out on my bike or go for a run. But if it were my job then there’d be no escape.
‘It’s been amazing here. Portsmouth will always be a special place to me. I really do enjoy living here'.
Since the magazine went to press, Lauren competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics on Sunday 11 September and we're so proud to announce that Lauren won silver! Read how Lauren got on.