My Year 2015

The 2015 season and with it my fifth season as a triathlete has come to an end. It’s been my first complete season on the WTS circuit and I really can’t complain about finishing it with a 20th place in the overall series.

The year brought with it its ups, as well as its downs. There have been moments that I would rather just forget about; like my race in Abu Dhabi where my running legs were nowhere to be found. Then there was Hamburg – all the amazing support out there (a massive thank you to everyone who came out to cheer us on again!) just made me want to do well, but unfortunately I didn’t have much to give that day. But there have also been some incredible moments that I will never forget: leading the WTS Cape town event for a large chunk of the run and finishing in 4th place. Nothing could have wiped the smile off my face after that race - even though the run was one of the most painful runs of my life. There was also the event in London where I managed to come 10th with a lot of my friends from University and London coming out to watch and cheer me on. It was awesome to give a little something back to them for all their support over the years.

All in all, I have learnt a lot in my first season on the WTS circuit: most importantly that you can’t get away with making any mistakes… I finished my Masters in June and just started my PhD in Combinatorics, so I had the summer free of academic study, which certainly taught me that I am not suited to being a full-time athlete. I love having Mathematics to occupy my mind when training hard and to make sure that I don’t end up overthinking training and racing. It gives me the time to “chill out” from being a triathlete.

After the final race of the WTS Series in Chicago, I had a few more interesting events to look forward to before starting my PhD. First up was the award ceremony for the German Student Sports Scholar of the year, organised by the Deutsche Bank and the Deutsche Sporthilfe. I had been included among the final 5 candidates and there was a public vote in August to elect the winner. My family and I arrived in Berlin for the awards ceremony not knowing who the final winner would be.

I ended up being elected as the German Student Sports Scholar of the year 2015!

Wow – this award really means a lot to me as it acknowledges exactly what I stand for – the combination of University with Elite level sport. As I have said, I feel like I could not compete at the same level in triathlon without having Mathematics there to distract me; similarly I also believe that doing triathlon makes me a better Mathematician, it gives me the time and space to get away from Mathematics and have a new, fresh approach at problems. Thus, being awarded the prize for German Student Sportsperson of the year has been incredible and I think this is also a great place to thank the “Stiftung Deutsche Sporthilfe” and the Deutsche Bank for their continuing support of athletes, not just in Sport but in academia too - your support really does make a difference. Furthermore, a huge well done to the other four finalists, who have all achieved so many impressive things and I feel honoured to be part of the Student Sportsperson community. The night ended with endless interesting conversations with likeminded athletes and it was great to finally meet so many of them!

A few days later, I attended a podium discussion to the Annual General Women’s Meeting of the Deutsche Olympischer Sportbund (DOSB, German Olympic Sports Confederation), the main point of discussion being Hamburg’s application for the Olympic Games in 2024. It was a really interesting morning of discussions and having been an Olympic Games maker at the London 2012 Games (one of the coolest things I have been given the opportunity to do) it was great to be invited to share my experiences of it.

The season break was then finished off by spending a few days relaxing in Germany before it was time to head back to start my PhD. Thus far I have really enjoyed being back in Oxford and the first few weeks of being a PhD student. I have even been allowed to do some teaching for some of the first year Mathematics students, which has been a great experience and is proving to be more tiring than I had expected. I am now back in full training and have already done my first Cross Country race of the winter – trust me, racing up a few hills several times after being back in training for a week is brutal! I still absolutely loved “playing” in the mud again. A few more weeks of British Autumn weather (which is actually pretty stunning at the moment) before it is already time for the first training camp of the new season in Fuerteventura, time to get some good training in and work on my weaknesses to come back stronger next year.

© Sophia Saller 2016. All rights reserved. Impressum