One of the biggest success stories from the Exeter University Athletic Union has undoubtedly been Nicole Kendall. Since starting University, she has flourished under the guidance of the Athletic Club, going from a club athlete to a GB Junior. Here, we discuss where it all started, how she maintains her success and what she hopes to achieve in the future.
Full name – Nicole Lisa Kendall
Course and Year – Mathematics, Year 2
Birthplace – Kingston
Sport – Athletics
Event and Personal Best – 400m – 54.83s
Major Honours and Representations
– GB selection in European Junior Championships for 4X400m relay
– Gold medal at the Welsh Internationals
– Silver medal at the Antwerp International Gala, Belgium
When did you start athletics and what were your earliest memories of the sport?
I started Athletics properly in Year 8 after beating all of the year 7’s and 8’s in sports day! However, I’ve always enjoyed running since I was in primary school. I’d always beat the older boys and it made me realise, ‘I’m actually quite good at this!
What made you choose athletics over another sport?
When I was younger I tried a lot of different sports such as horse riding, gymnastics and netball. However, horse riding was too expensive and the appeal of constantly being upside down in gymnastics soon wore off! In the end, athletics was the only sport that I could really stand out in.
Within athletics, who was your role model growing up and who is your idol at the moment?
When I was younger I always admired the former GB 400m runner Nicola Sanders, albeit mainly because we had the same name! I watched her win silver at the World Championships in Osaka and it was very inspirational to see. Ever since her retirement, Alyson Felix has attracted my attention more so than others. Her effortless running style and modesty when victorious is a joy to watch.
All athletes have highs and lows, but what has been your biggest high and your most disappointing low point so far?
My biggest high was most definitely getting selected to run for Great Britain. Running a personal best in Belgium was also very satisfying as the pressure was extremely intense, but knowing that I delivered when it mattered was amazing. However, I’ve had several achilles injuries that have caused great frustration, especially when watching athletics on television and feeling useless that I can’t compete!
Do you think that women receive equal coverage to men in athletics and in sport as a whole?
With Athletics, I think that women receive fair coverage mainly due to large athletic meetings hosting both men and women at the same time. With football and rugby, young children would find it hard to name female players, but with athletics, they would be more likely speak of athletes such as Jess Ennis and Alyson Felix in the same breath as Usain Bolt and other elite male performers. I would say that athletics, tennis and possibly gymnastics are the only sports that are like this.
How do you manage to balance your athletics, studies and social life successfully?
Luckily I’ve always been used to it! Throughout A Levels I’ve always managed to go to school, do homework and go training, which held me in good stead for university. However, I had to make a few sacrifices in terms of socialising during my first year. People have found it hard to understand that I can’t constantly party as it would seriously hinder my training, especially with the pressure living in halls. The sacrifices have definitely been worth it though!
What is your next objective for the forthcoming season?
I have an important indoor competition approaching in February, where I’m hoping to meet the qualifying time needed for the British Championships. The qualifying time is well within my PB, but anything can happen indoors so I can’t be complacent! I also have the chance to qualify during a competition in Wales, so I’m very optimistic. I also intend to make the BUCS final and push for a medal there as well.
And finally, what advice would you give to students who have never done athletics before but would like to?
What really makes athletics stands out is that there’s a discipline within the sport that everyone can adapt to. If you don’t think that you’re a talented runner, there’s still plenty of opportunity to excel, such as in throwing or jumping. When I first started competing, I wasn’t a GB runner straight away. It takes time to find your event so if you really love it, stick with it and you’ll get what you deserve!