British rowing stars reset after Olympic let-down

British Olympic rower Polly Swann was counting down to Tokyo 2020 just days ago. Now she is considering starting her medical career early to help in the battle against the coronavirus.

The 31-year-old, who won a silver medal as part of the women’s eight at the 2016 Games in Rio, was looking to go one better in Japan before beginning her new life on the hospital wards.

Swann said this week’s decision to postpone the Olympics at least gives athletes clarity after weeks of uncertainty.


The former Edinburgh University student was gearing up to start her foundation programme as a doctor after competing in Japan but she said there were rumours that health chiefs in Scotland could be looking for reinforcements in the next few weeks as COVID-19 takes hold.

“I think I need to make some hard choices,” said Swann, who was in a good position to win a place in the women’s four.

“The Olympics are my dream and something very personal to me. I want to go and win an Olympic gold medal but also the pressure we’re under globally is much bigger than just sport.

“Obviously medicine is a huge passion to me so I feel passionate about having a duty, being a tiny cog in the NHS machine.”

The former world and European champion described the postponement of the Games as frustrating but said it meant athletes now had an extra year to prepare to hit their peak.

And she has not given up on her dream, saying the National Health Service is generally supportive of doctors who want to compete at the Olympics.

But she admitted: “It will be tough. I had the perfect solution.”

Mridha Shihab Mahmud

Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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