“Training for an average of 20 hours a week and attending classes: it’s often tricky, but it works”. Here we talk to four Ghent University students who are combining top-level sports with their studies. Read how they do it and what the future holds for them.
Hanne Maudens: “The freedom you have makes it possible to combine it all”
Hanne Maudens does athletics and is in her first year masters studying clinical special needs education and disability studies: “I did heptathlon for years, but recently switched to 400 and 800 meters running. I hope to compete in the 4x400 meter relay at the Olympics in Paris. I currently have the third fastest time, so that should be possible. I chose Ghent University because you have a lot of freedom, you can choose when you go to class and the professors are very flexible. That way I can combine it with my training, which takes at least 20 hours a week. As long as I can do high-level sports, I want to focus on that. I hope to be able to do it until I am 30, but I also think about what is possible after that. For example, I found my internship last year in special education: very cool!”
Florian Vermeersch: “I dream of winning a Flemish classic”
Florian Vermeersch is a cyclist for Lotto Soudal and is in his second year studying for a degree in history: “I've been on a racing bike since I was nine years old, but professionally I only started last year. It was more of a hobby when I had to make decisions as it relates to studying. History has always interested me, so that decision was quickly made. What can I do with it after my sports career? I haven’t thought about that as yet. As right now my focus is on racing. At the moment I train between 20 and 30 hours a week, which is pretty tough. But because my credits are spread over several years, I can manage it. My biggest dream is to one day win a Flemish classic, and to get my master’s degree. For the rest we’ll just have to wait for the future!”
Margo Van Puyvelde: ““I was never really a big-party goer”
Margo Van Puyvelde specializes in sprinting and hurdling. When she submits her thesis this year, she will have graduated as an archaeologist: “I was in my third year of my bachelor’s degree in archaeology when I started athletics professionally. At the time, I had been doing it since I was fifteen. It was a year in which I had fewer classes anyway, and because the opportunity arose, I just took the plunge. At the moment all that’s left is my thesis, so it’s pretty easy to combine that with 18 hours of training a week. Of course, it does have an impact on my social life, but I was never really a big-party goer anyway. And I really want to focus on my sport now, so I can reach my full potential. It’s now that I have to do it. If and when top sport ever stops, I definitely want to work as an archaeologist. The combination of theory and practice, the multidisciplinary appealed to me greatly. I’ve also been fascinated by the pyramids in Egypt since I was a kid, so I definitely want to pursue that passion one day.”
Tibo Vyvey: “The focus is entirely on the Paris Olympics”
Tibo Vyvey combines rowing with his studies in rehabilitation sciences and physical therapy: “I have been rowing for about nine years, first as a hobby and for the last three years on the professional circuit with the cooperation of Sport Vlaanderen. I have also been studying for three years, but am still in my second year of bachelor studies, as I haven’t taken all the courses. I watch the lessons online at times when it is possible for me, depending on my training sessions. It’s feasible like that. The choice of my studies is also linked to my sport. What I learn in class I can apply during my training sessions, so that is really interesting. Right now, all my focus is on the Olympics in Paris.”
photo Hanne Maudens: Jos Verleysen
photo Margo Van Puyvelde: Kris Vandevorst
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