Olympic rower joins fight against Covid-19 as junior doctor

Polly Swann is working as a junior doctor in Edinburgh, while still training for the postponed games.

Olympic rower joins fight against Covid-19 as junior doctor Getty Images

An Olympic rower has joined the fight against coronavirus as a junior doctor in Edinburgh, while still training for the postponed games.

Olympic silver medallist Polly Swann started working as a junior doctor last week after previously completing her medical degree.

The 31-year-old won a silver medal as part of the women’s eight at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

After taking a break to finish her medical studies at the University of Edinburgh, she rejoined team GB in 2019, and won a bronze medal at the World Cup III in the paired race with teammate Holly Hill.

She joined a hospital in Scotland to aid the fight against coronavirus last week, and will work there for the next three months.

Dr Swann, from Lancaster, said: “A lot of junior doctors have been moved to the most critical parts of the NHS, so interim foundation year doctors are backfilling their roles.

‘I’m definitely not a frontline ICU worker, but I’m glad I can still help to ease the burden in some way.’

Polly Swann

“I’m definitely not a frontline ICU worker, but I’m glad I can still help to ease the burden in some way.”

She added her coach Tom Pattichis has devised a training programme to prepare her for the Olympic games outside of her working hours.

“I had the experience of training alongside working when I was in my last few months of medical school last year so it’s not entirely new to me,” she said.

“I’m staying with my parents for lockdown so I have a rowing machine in their hallway, some dumbbells in the living room and a wattbike in my dad’s toolshed, which I’m sure is very annoying for them.”

Dr Swann said the postponed games will be “the most phenomenal Olympics ever” after the world emerges from lockdown.

She said: “The Olympics is a celebration of human achievement and it brings people together – it’s about more than just medals and more than even sport.

“If everyone can come together for this celebration at the end of all this it’ll be the most phenomenal Olympics ever.”

Director of performance Brendan Purcell said: “We’re pleased to be able to support Polly in balancing her training for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games alongside her work as a junior doctor.

“Since the start of the pandemic we have discussed with athletes and staff how we can combine our pursuit of performance excellence alongside our social responsibility in this current crisis.

“As well as the fact that Polly will be contributing to the nationwide NHS effort, our approach aims to centre on developing the person and athlete to enable them to thrive now and in their careers beyond sport.” 

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