Katie Reid is a Team GB Sprint Canoeist taking part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She’s originally from Dunfermline and currently lives in Nottingham. Katie studied Molecular Biology, graduating in 2014.

ABOUT YOUR WORK

What does your job involve, what do you do at work? I train full time with British Canoeing at the National Water Sports centre in Nottingham.  I normally train 2-3 times per day, 6 days per week, combining a mixture of paddling sessions, S&C and robustness.  When I’m not in Nottingham, I’m lucky enough to travel all around the world training and competing.

How did the University of Dundee equip you for your career? I think going to university helped me find a confidence in myself, a confidence to take risks, be independent and really pursue my dreams.

Was your course related to your career? I wouldn’t say my course is related to my career, no, but when I was at uni I spent a lot of time training and playing basketball for Dundee Uni Women’s Basketball Club.

What gives you satisfaction in your work? Being able to push and test my physical and psychological limits every day. You learn a lot about yourself and what the human body and mind is capable of.

What challenges do you face and how do you deal with them? The route to your goals is a never a smooth or linear one, there are always lots of setbacks and bumps along the way. Niggles and injuries or just a plateau in progression can get all-consuming if not managed. So for me it’s really important to have things going on outside of canoeing. I have a part-time job on the side, I study, and I love to get out in the hills where I can switch off from everything and reset.

Tell us the best thing about your work? Being able to be out in nature every day. Paddling on incredible bodies of water surrounded by beautiful landscapes and amazing people.

And the hardest? Canoeing isn’t just a very physically demanding sport but also incredibly technical. This is what draws me to the sport and why I love it but it’s also what makes it very challenging. There are so many aspects that you must work on, this requires you to be in an open and progressive mindset every day which takes a lot of energy – there a few opportunities when you can switch off, there are no easy days.

Can you tell us a bit about the Olympics? I’m super excited! This is my first Olympic Games and it’s the first time that Women’s Sprint Canoe will be featuring in the Games too, so that adds another significant element. It’s going to be a very different Games to what I envisaged as a youngster. Due to Covid restrictions my family and friends can’t attend and there’s going to be lots of restrictions around the Olympic Village and venues too. But saying this, it’s still the Olympics and I really cannot wait to get out there to race and take it all in. It’s what I’ve worked so hard for over the years so to get the opportunity to go out there and showcase my sport, that feels like a privilege.

WORKING DURING A PANDEMIC

How has the pandemic affected what you do? The biggest difference was the lack of competition and training camps. 2020 was difficult, we couldn’t compete or travel at all which made going into the Olympic qualifiers very tricky. You can try and replicate competition in training, but it never quite feels the same as racing internationally. And of course, we train to compete so to go 18 months without a race, that was tough psychologically.

Has there been a particular support to you during this time? Last year was very difficult as, like many, I had to train in my garage and garden when the country went into full lockdown. But I was very fortunate to have the support of British Canoeing who supplied me with a canoe erg and gym equipment so that I was able to complete all the training necessary. As well as British Canoeing, UK sport and The National Lottery secured my funding during the pandemic which enabled me to continue towards my goals.

Is there anything new within the current situation that you hope will continue? We had to adapt and think outside the box during lockdown. For a few months I wasn’t able to get onto the water, this resulted in us having to find some new training methods which turned out to be really beneficial. So yeah, we’ll carry on doing those for sure.

And is there anything particular you’ve missed? Training camps – we usually go on 2-3 training camps per year, to South Africa and Spain but obviously this hasn’t been possible. It’s meant that the winters have felt a lot longer and we haven’t been able to enjoy the team aspect of training as much.

CAMPUS LIFE

What did you like most about Dundee uni? That it’s a campus university. This made it easy for me to balance my degree and extracurricular activities.

Any tips for current students? I would say that whilst you’re at uni you should try out as many sports and clubs as possible – try something that you never thought you’d enjoy. It’s a fantastic opportunity to discover new passions and meet new friends.

Favourite spot on campus? ISE, or the Student Union for the nachos.

Is there, or was there, someone at the University who inspires/inspired you? My housemates – they encouraged and supported me to pursue my dreams and they are still right by my side me now.

What do you do outside of your work? I’m a part time Horticulturist working at plant nursery where I grow, train and look after a wide variety of plants.

Tell us something we don’t know about you? I love wild swimming – the more secluded and wilder, the better.

Who would you invite to a dinner party? All my friends that I’ve lost contact with over the years.

Why Dundee? I chose Dundee because it’s one of the leading universities in Europe for research in Life Sciences. I also knew from friends how good the sports facilities and teams were. The combination of a high-quality course and the ability to express myself through sport was what really drew me to the University of Dundee.