Meet the record-break­ing teenager set for Cam­bridge

➤ Amy Hunt has opted for a life of stress jug­gling de­gree at top univer­sity with train­ing as one of the world’s lead­ing sprint­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport / Athletics - By Ben Bloom ATH­LET­ICS CORRESPOND­ENT

‘I don’t have to sac­ri­fice my ed­u­ca­tion for the track or vice versa’

Amy Hunt had a tailor-made op­tion wait­ing for her. Her move to train at Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity’s ath­let­ics track three years ago had helped to pro­pel her to heights she could not have en­vis­aged, be­com­ing Usain Bolt’s fe­male equiv­a­lent as the fastest un­der-18 woman in his­tory over 200me­tres last sum­mer.

So when it came to se­lect­ing a higher ed­u­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ment, the sim­ple route would have been to stick to what she knew: ac­cept an of­fer to study English at Lough­bor­ough, re­tain daily ac­cess to her coach and base her­self half an hour from the fam­ily home in Gran­tham. But she had her heart set on more.

Which is why Cam­bridge Univer­sity’s fresh­ers will find one of the world’s fastest women in their midst when they ar­rive for the first week of term next month – some­one ca­pa­ble of run­ning times good enough to win a medal at last year’s World Cham­pi­onships (which she opted not to con­test) and study at one of the top uni­ver­si­ties. “It sounds re­ally cringe­wor­thy, but you only have one life,” Hunt tells The Daily Tele­graph. “I have to push my­self to suc­ceed and fol­low my heart.

“I want to be as suc­cess­ful as I pos­si­bly can and I re­alised I didn’t want to let this op­por­tu­nity go, be­cause I’d prob­a­bly re­gret it in five or 10 years’ time. I just fell in love with Cam­bridge when I went there.

“It’s go­ing to be chal­leng­ing. I fully ac­cept it’s go­ing to be hard at points, ex­tremely stress­ful, and there will be times where I think I’ve made the wrong de­ci­sion and could have gone some­where nearer where I live. But I can’t al­ways take the easy path. It was too good an op­por­tu­nity to let go.”

De­ci­sion made, the quandary now is how Hunt bal­ances her dual am­bi­tions. She plans to live with her peers at Cor­pus Christi Col­lege, although eight-week terms mean she will spend more time each year “be­ing a pro­fes­sional ath­lete” in Lough­bor­ough than in Cam­bridge. Any con­cerns over a lack of face-to­face con­tact with her coach dur­ing term time have been al­layed by the suc­cess of her pan­demic-en­forced, so­cially dis­tanced coach­ing re­la­tion­ship over the past few months.

And while her path may be un­usual, it is far from unique. Delve into the archives and Hunt will find Cam­bridge Univer­sity alum­nus Harold Abra­hams, whose suc­cess­ful quest to win Olympic 100m gold was de­picted in Char­i­ots of Fire.

More re­cently, the likes of Dina Asher-Smith (his­tory at King’s Col­lege, Lon­don) and Laura Muir (ve­teri­nary medicine at the Univer­sity of Glas­gow) proved it is pos­si­ble to ex­cel in ath­let­ics while study­ing at the high­est level.

An­other univer­sity grad­u­ate, Adam Gemili, who stud­ied sports and ex­er­cise sci­ence at the Univer­sity of East Lon­don, has been of­fer­ing Hunt ad­vice on the care­ful jug­gling act. “It was su­per help­ful be­cause he trav­elled quite a bit be­tween univer­sity and train­ing, so I talked to him about coping with that and how you suc­ceed in both as­pects of your life,” Hunt says.

“He said about mak­ing sure you have trust and hon­esty with your coach, and be­ing on top of plan­ning as much as pos­si­ble – hav­ing ev­ery­thing in place to make it the least stress­ful pos­si­ble.

“I look up to peo­ple like Laura and Dina. They showed it is very much pos­si­ble to do univer­sity cour­ses and be glob­ally renowned at the top of world ath­let­ics. I don’t have to sac­ri­fice my ed­u­ca­tion for track or vice versa.”

Like many of her peers, the act of ac­tu­ally en­sur­ing her place at Cam­bridge Univer­sity was taken out of her hands af­ter the pan­demic left her un­able to sit her A-lev­els. She de­scribes the or­deal as “kind of ter­ri­fy­ing” with “your whole fu­ture in the bal­ance and some­one else de­cid­ing what’s go­ing to hap­pen”. Thank­fully, she re­ceived the nec­es­sary grades af­ter a nervy last-minute up­grade.

Aside from cel­e­brat­ing her 18th birth­day in novel fash­ion – with her fa­ther dress­ing as a pre­tend bouncer af­ter her par­ents turned their con­ser­va­tory into a fake night­club dur­ing lock­down – and get­ting started on her hefty univer­sity read­ing list, the main im­pact of the pan­demic has been the post­pone­ment of the Tokyo Olympics.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, given her age, she says the de­lay is “def­i­nitely a pos­i­tive thing” with an­other year to get “stronger, fit­ter, faster”.

Con­cen­trat­ing solely on 100m this year, she nar­rowly missed her 11.31sec per­sonal best last week in Swe­den and heads into this week­end’s Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships ranked sec­ond in a de­pleted field miss­ing the likes of world medal­lists Asher-Smith, Asha Philip and Daryll Neita.

Her first aim is to en­joy com­pet­ing af­ter so long with­out racing, but she ad­mits the goal is “more about plac­ings than times” as she at­tempts to add the na­tional out­door 100m ti­tle to the in­door 60m crown she claimed last win­ter. Af­ter­wards, it will be back to the books.

“It was lovely to live the life of a pro­fes­sional ath­lete for a bit dur­ing lock­down and purely fo­cus on train­ing,” she says. “But I’m now get­ting to the point where I need some­thing else. I’ve missed study­ing.”

Cam­bridge will doubt­less pro­vide plenty to keep her oc­cu­pied.

Fly­ing the flag: Amy Hunt, who will be­gin univer­sity life at Cam­bridge next week, cel­e­brates her Bri­tish in­door 60 me­tre ti­tle ear­lier this year

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