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Sylvia Misztal cycling feat

University of Exeter Cycling Club with their BUCS medals with Sylvia Misztal pictured far right.

Spotlight on Sports Scholars and Performance Bursars-Monika Mikkola, George Chatterton and Sylvia Misztal

We caught up with three of our 1st year elite student athletes to see how they are finding juggling their sport and academic studies at the University of Exeter.

Monika Mikkola

As a junior Monika was 3 times the Laser Radial Youth World Champion, 2 times Youth European Champion and qualified to represent Finland at the ISAF Youth Worlds for 3 years in a row. These achievements led to her being named as Finland Youth Sailor of the year on 2 separate occasions.  Since joining the senior ranks Monika was ranked 4th in the world in 2017, having won 2 World Cup medals.

Currently in her 1st year and studying for a degree in BSC Psychology with Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Exeter, Monika was part of the BUCS Fleet Racing team that won Gold at the BUCS Fleet Racing Championships.

1)      Why did you choose the University of Exeter as a place to study?

“There are many reasons why I chose to study at Exeter. Firstly, it’s a very good University with a beautiful campus. It also offers the exact degree I wanted to do, a combination of psychology and sports. Secondly, Exeter has amazing sporting facilities, which allows me to do my daily training, and it is fairly close to Weymouth where I go to sail. Thirdly it offers a very good sports programme with Strength and Conditioning coaching and a great deal of support for athletes”.

2)      How are you finding balancing your sport and academic studies?

“Balancing studies and sport has been alright so far. I’ve done a few training camps abroad since I started at Exeter, and the University and all the lecturers have been very understanding and helpful which has helped a lot”.

3)      What are your sporting goals for the new year?

“My goals for next year are to perform well at our World Championships to make sure I qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020”.

4)      If you could give one piece of advice for an athlete looking to study at University what would it be?

“My one piece of advice would be ‘prioritize and schedule’. When you train make sure it’s good quality and train hard. When you study make sure you’re actually getting stuff done”.


Sylvia Misztal

Having made the switch to cycling from athletics (former national level 400m hurdler), via the Discover your Gold: Sprint track cycling talent ID campaign, Sylvia Misztal is relatively new to the sport. Despite this she competed in the British Track Cycling Nationals only 12 months after starting cycling and was named in the 2017-2018 Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy.

Now in her 1st year of studying medicine at University of Exeter Sylvia recently competed in the BUCS Track Cycling Championships, winning team bronze and 2 individual silvers.

1)      How have you found the transfer from athletics to cycling?

“The transfer from athletics to track cycling has been a bit mad, especially as I’d hardly ridden a bike before I did the talent ID campaign - but my gap year as a full time athlete in the GB team definitely helped! I can now repair a puncture too! I love the places you can go on your bike on a training ride, although it does mean I'm more likely to get lost. I've struggled a lot with the quantity of gym needed as I've always been a bit of a weakling and 400mH required more endurance than it did strength so I'm still getting used to that a year on! I've found that my fitness from athletics has transferred onto the bike though and I recover much faster than most which has proved beneficial on race days so I try and keep a run in my training just to maintain that - but the hurdles have had to go unfortunately. Track cycling isn't the most popular sport here in Exeter so I’ve found training alone a little difficult sometimes, but lifting heavier than the guys in the gym is always motivation”.

2)      How are you finding fitting in your training with the demands of you medicine degree?

“Hard. I think I’ve seen more of St Luke’s gym than my lecture theatre (I’ve been to all my lectures) and I definitely underestimated the amount of work that I would be doing - but that’s probably because I don't like not knowing everything! Balancing some sort of social life has been hard but everyone understands which is great as without them life would be a lot more difficult. Can't say I’m very vocal when TV series are being discussed as I’ve literally not had the time to watch anything since I’ve been here! Training also leaves me pretty tired, the last thing I want to do after spending three hours in the rain is go over a lecture but it has to be done. The lack of track in Exeter has meant travelling to Newport to train but it seems to have been worth it- I medalled in all my events at BUCS so somethings going well!”

3)      What are your sporting goals for the New Year?

“BUCS was my main goal of the year, the GB team kind of handed everything to me so this year is just to be able to stand on my own two feet really! The main aim is to get strong, which will hopefully transfer into a PB on the bike and some good results internationally over the summer”.

4)      What are your long term plans with cycling and medicine?

“The aim is to race at a major championships but quite frankly, I just want to see how good I can get. Regarding medicine, I want to intercalate in Sport and Exercise. Injury made me leave athletics so Sports Medicine is something I’m keen to go into as well as joining the military as a doctor”.


George Chatterton

George made his debut for England Sevens at a European Grand Prix in Clermont in June 2017. Having already represented Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership 7s tournament at Northampton’s Franklin’s Gardens at the start of the season, George has regularly featured for the University 1st team in the BUCS Super Rugby competition. Currently he his combining his Rugby with completing his 1st year at University of Exeter studying for a degree in BA Geography.

1)      How are you finding University life and the transition from full time sport?

“I am really enjoying University life. The transition from full time sport with England Sevens has been fairly easy as our Rugby Performance Programme is about as full time as you can get whilst studying so it’s great for me”. We have 3 x S&C sessions a week alongside Rugby pitch sessions and the opportunity for Wednesday BUCS and Saturday league fixtures”.

2)      What do you enjoy most about being at University?

“I like that my degree (BA Geography) is interesting and keeps me busy with lectures and studying in between that. Therefore rugby is more enjoyable as I look forward to it more. EURFC (University of Exeter Rugby Club) is an amazing club and I love being part of it”.

3)      What are your goals for this year and also being at university?

“Academically my goals are to do more than simply pass the year. I’m on about a 2:1 at the moment so want to make sure I continue to progress with my academics. I also want to continue to make my mark in the University Rugby 1st team as part of the BUCS Super Rugby competition. Ultimately as a team we are looking to win silverware this season and still have the BUCS 7s competition to look forward to later in the season”.

4) How have you found the transition from 7s to 15s?

“The transition hasn’t been too easy. But I have got to a stage I am happy at now. That said I still want to push on and continue to get better in the second half of the season”.

Monika, Sylvia and George are all currently on Sports Scholarships at the University of Exeter and as such recieve access to exceptional training facilities, a comprehensive support services package and financial award. For further information regarding the Sports Scholarship Scheme and how to apply please visit our website

Date: 31 January 2019