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Olympic silver medallist Dr Polly Swann supporting the NHS in the fight against COVID-19

Posted: 5 May, 2020

Olympic silver medallist Dr Polly Swann will be balancing her GB Rowing Team training with rounds on the ward as she heads back to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. GB rower Polly, who graduated as a doctor from the University of Edinburgh back in July 2019, will be spending the next three months working as an interim foundation year doctor at a hospital near her home in Scotland.

Describing the role, she says: “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.” After winning a silver medal in the eight at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Polly stepped away from rowing to focus on finishing her medical studies. After realising she wasn’t finished with rowing yet, she rejoined the Team in 2019 and went on to win a bronze medal in the pair with Holly Hill at World Cup III.

Her Olympic experience means she understands the impact the Games has on the world. “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.” Polly is no stranger to balancing training with work: “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. “The team at British Rowing have been really supportive and flexible. My coach Tom Pattichis has devised a program with the help of our physiologist and physios that I can do while I’m working, which has really put me at ease. “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!” 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.”