This Edinburgh Girl Can

In this article The Student profiles some of Edinburgh’s most promising athletes and the coach of the victorious Women’s Rugby Team and Head of Performance Sport, Claire Cruickshank.

Kathyrn Johnstone: Swimming, 50 or 100m Breaststroke. Best result: 6th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Sporting hero: Michael Phelps.

CM: How did you start out in your sport? What attracted you to it?
I followed my sister into the sport when I was seven years old. I always enjoyed swimming and I followed my older sister Jenni around to everything!

CM: What are some challenges you face as a female athlete?
Sport is often not seen as a career choice for females. Being a senior female in swimming is not a common thing and therefore opportunities for older females are not widely given.

CM: You’ve competed for Scotland at a home Commonwealth Games, what was that like?
Making a final in the 50m breaststroke was unreal. For any Scottish Swimmer, the crowd created an atmosphere that sounded as though the 1000s of people there knew you personally and were 100 per cent behind you doing well.

CM: Rio 2016, or Tokyo 2020?
Rio 2016 is my aim. I’m hoping to qualify for the 100m breaststroke. I would like to put in some strong performances at the last short course meet of the year. Then moving onto 2016, I would like to pick up some medals and points for the University of Edinburgh at British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) before heading to Olympic Trials in April.
Olivia White, Swimming, 200m Breaststroke. Best achievement: Selection for Team GB for the World University Games. Sporting hero: Jessica Ennis.

CM: How did you start out in your sport?
I’ve always been involved in sport due to it being promoted by both my family and school. I enjoyed playing hockey at a national level and swimming as more of a social activity. It wasn’t until my final year of school at the age of 17 that I started to take swimming seriously.

CM: What are some challenges you face as a female athlete?
Financial opportunities are limited in general for women in sport in comparison to their male counterparts. Females receive less sports coverage, which results in less sponsorship making it more difficult for female athletes to meet the financial demands that sport creates. Furthermore this lack of representation leads to a lack of female sporting role models.

CM: What changes would you make to increase female participation in sport?
Firstly we need a more equal coverage of sports within the media. How can females be encouraged to participate in sport when there is a distinct lack of female sporting role models?
This is born out of the lack of coverage. It goes further than this; the public perception of sport needs to change. The motivation behind participating needs to go further than simply sport being a necessity for attaining the ‘perfect’ body.

CM: Rio 2016 or Tokyo 2020?
I am hoping to gain selection for Rio 2016. I am fairly young within swimming in terms of my development so I wouldn’t rule out Tokyo 2020 as a goal. There is also the Commonwealth Games in 2018 that I would love to go to.

Maddie Arlett: Rowing, lightweight doubles or quad. Best result: 4th at U23 World Championships in 2015. Sporting hero: Jessica Ennis.

CM: How did you start out in your sport?
I didn’t have anything to do with it at school, and I think someone said that ‘You’d be good at rowing’ and I was like ‘Oh right okay’, and then I watched the Olympics and that was really influential for me, then when I came to Uni I wanted to try something new, and I started rowing!

CM: What was it like finishing 4th at the U23 Worlds?
That was amazing, to even be selected for the U23 GB team was awesome in itself so to be training in amongst everybody and to go to compete on a world stage, that was amazing.

CM: What are some challenges you face as a female athlete?
As a social side I’ve not been able to go out and be social, I’m not as close to the people on my course as I thought I would be coming here, so it’s things like that which you have to sacrifice, and sometimes you might get judged to be ‘why aren’t you coming out, why are you going to the gym?’ but for me it’s definitely worth it when you get to race against the world.

CM: Is there a stigma around rowing, and does it need to change?
Anybody can start rowing, I am not the tallest girl in the world, I obviously do lightweight so I’m a bit specialised but anyone can start it.
I started as a novice, none of us knew how to do it, you can start at the exact same level, and it’s about whoever is the most determined and most willing to get up at 6am, get callouses and sweat. Potentially there is a stigma of needing to be the biggest girl in the world, but it just adds to your fitness.

CM: Rio 2016 or Tokyo 2020?
Tokyo definitely. I’ve still got another year at U23 so I’m going to go for that again and hopefully get a medal at the next Worlds, and after that that’s me done with undergraduate university, but my plan is to keep trying to crack the senior GB squad for the next Olympic cycle and see where I can go from there.

Charlotte Watson: Orienteering. Best result: 29th at 2015 World Championships. Sporting hero: Chris Hoy.

CM: How did you start out in your sport?
My parents did a little bit of orienteering, and I’m from the Lake District which is a good area anyway for orienteering and I was quite fortunate to have a good club where I lived and we did stuff at school that was organised by the club, and I went to training with them.

CM: What are some challenges you face as a female athlete?
There aren’t many female coaches [at the top of sports]. It can be a challenge if there’s not a female coach, sometimes in orienteering men have a different way of thinking but I don’t find it a huge problem, but it’s probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed, it’s probably more of a communication problem.

CM: Are you hoping to be World Champion in the future?
I’ve still got that aim but I’ve slowed down a bit and I need to get a degree and a job, because you can’t earn any money doing orienteering so you need to have a job at the same time. I’d still do it even I wasn’t going to compete at the top level.

Claire Cruickshank: Ladies Rugby Club Head Coach and Head of Performance Sport at EUSU.

CM: How was winning Varsity?
It was great! The experience, atmosphere, the event, the number of people who came to watch, even the girls towards the end were playing in front of 9,000 people, the guys and girls will never play with that crowd again unless Varsity Mk.2 is bigger and better, but overall the experience was great. There are very few women’s sports, very few sporting events in the world where people get to play in front of that size of a crowd. It really has set us up for the season.

CM: What does the Sports Union do to encourage female participation?
We don’t actively go out and do that, but there’s just over 6,000 members of sports clubs, of them 48 per cent are female, so we’re sitting pretty much at an even split. In terms of BUCS, there are 96 teams in BUCS, 37 are female only, and 13 are mixed teams, so again over half. 64 clubs in the Sports Union, 53 of those have female members, so netball or basketball, there are certain ones such as mens football that are male only. With coaching there are over 200 registered coaches, and 85 of them are female coaches. We don’t actively recruit but it comes from the programs that are in place, the good club structures, and the opportunity to do something different.

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The Student Newspaper 2016