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Amy Hunt column: ‘So many people have tried to race me!’

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Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt, the fastest under-18 sprinter in the world, hopes to make the Great Britain team for the Tokyo Olympics next summer. The 18-year-old has another challenge, however. She has just started studying English at Cambridge University. This is the first of her BBC Sport columns as she juggles sport with student life.

I didn’t know quite what to expect when my parents and I were on our way down to Cambridge – in two cars because I had so much stuff.

There was an overwhelming sense of trepidation as this would be my first time living and surviving on my own, never mind all the myths and legends which surround Cambridge.

Amy Hunt
Hunt took A-Levels in English literature, music and chemistry at Loughborough College

However, I was really fortunate that my college and the university as a whole have been so warm and welcoming.

For example, and I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I have a double bed, which is absolutely amazing! It doesn’t sound like much but everyone in my college, students and academics, get a single bed.

I also have my own kitchen, a perk of being in my own household which has the added benefit of decreasing my chances of contracting Covid-19. I am really lucky that when I spoke to my college (Corpus Christi) they were incredibly understanding of the demands of my training, for which I am very much indebted.

These extras are a result of being based at Corpus’ postgraduate site, along with a small group of other freshers. It is about a 15-minute walk to main college and is a place of peace, away from the hustle and bustle of central Cambridge. I am also right around the corner from the track and gym which is again utterly amazing!

I miss out on being surrounded by stunning medieval architecture, which is a real shame as Corpus is a really beautiful college, but I’m pretty happy with the trade-off of having more peace and quiet.

One luxury that I had planned for is having my own car. It is a necessity as I will travel back and forth from Loughborough, when my timetable and workload permit, to see my coach Joe McDonnell. The side benefit is that I won’t have to wobble back from the supermarket in town with my bike laden with shopping bags!

A familiar fresher

Of course, this year’s freshers’ week has been unlike any other.

There were loads of events and outings planned for us to get to know one another, which had to be scrapped just a few weeks before we all arrived when the ‘rule of six’ was added to the coronavirus restrictions.

The college student union body has worked really hard to make some Covid-compliant plans instead. We have wobbled out on punts together, been split into quiz teams and had an evening out under the stars, huddled under blankets.

I have had a few people come up and ask: “Are you Amy Hunt?” Which is crazy!

Amy Hunt
Hunt won the British 60m indoor title in February

I find it so strange, and almost jarring as a fresher, to be recognised, especially at Cambridge University. I’m meeting new amazing people every day here and thinking: “Wow, this could be the next Sir David Attenborough, Steven Hawking, Naomie Harris.” So it’s very surreal that people are asking me if I’m Amy Hunt and: “Do you fancy a race?”

The university also runs a weekly asymptomatic test programme as well as providing tests for any students displaying symptoms. This past summer I have raced in Poland, Switzerland and Qatar and have constantly been tested – so those swabs are one part of student life that I have been ready for!

Coaching remotely and reading solidly

I trained really hard during the first period of lockdown in the spring and, while running around in fields close to my house was not ideal, it did at least give me and my coach a chance to try working together from a distance.

We have really open, honest dialogue and, together with the technology that we can use to analyse videos together, it worked really well.

Joe gave me three weeks off which coincided with the start of university, so it has been nice to be able to focus on settling in and getting back to some learning. Combining training in Cambridge with travelling back for on-to-one sessions is currently working well and I have a lot of back-up plans in case things go awry.

Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi college was established in 1352 and counts world leaders, scientists, authors and actors among those who have studied there

My parents have offered to come and pick me up if I’m too tired to drive or need to do some work on the journey. I am also very grateful to the Cambridge University sprint coach, Hayley Ginn who has been wonderfully helpful in organising track sessions and acting as my coach’s eyes when he is unable to be there.

I’m starting to really get into a comfortable and sustainable routine with balancing university work and training. I try to plan out my week as much as possible with meals, supervisions, lectures and training times/sessions. As I’m starting to get a sense of what I can realistically get accomplished in an hour, it’s becoming easier to plan things.

I was really lucky earlier on in lockdown to have a chat with fellow British sprinter Adam Gemili, who offered me so much advice on the balance between training and uni. He spoke about being a student-athlete and maintaining the balance between the two halves of that identity, of the importance of planning ahead and also being honest with those around you, whether that be your coach or your tutor.

Racing next year is very much up in the air at the moment. As my season was pushed back a lot later than I’d initially planned, I’ve only started winter training in the last two weeks. Therefore, it’s too early to have a specific outline of next year.

I really enjoyed the 2020 indoor season and have historically found indoor racing to be extremely useful, but whether I do it in 2021 is a discussion I need to have with my coach a bit nearer the time and will depend on a lot of different factors.

Amy Hunt
Hunt is juggling a demanding academic schedule with her aims of competing at next summer’s Olympics

As I was driving down to Cambridge for the first time, I was nervous but predominately excited. I haven’t been in an academic environment since March and I really wanted to get back to learning, as well as meeting a lot of new people and broadening my horizons.

I have found that without anyone to tell me it might be wise to go to bed, I have got into a rhythm of reading until 02:00 or 03:00, getting up late and then working late again. It could be construed as a typical student routine, but probably means I need to just wake up earlier in the morning.

Amy Hunt
Hunt is part of the largest undergraduate intake in Cambridge’s history after her cohort could not take exams because of coronavirus restrictions

My year is the biggest that Cambridge and Corpus Christi College have ever had after none of us took our A-level exams in the summer.external-link

It is also the most diverse, which is an extremely positive thing. Cambridge has a stigma of being a certain kind of place which produces a certain kind of person, and while this is untrue, I believe the university is far from being finished or anywhere near the end point. It’s a great thing to see but it has to be built upon.

All in all, my first few weeks in Cambridge have been utterly amazing and I have loved every second. I have also really enjoyed getting back in training – even though winter sessions are perhaps a bit more grim than summer ones. I can’t wait to see what this term will bring!

Amy Hunt was speaking to BBC Sport’s Mike Henson.

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