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Durham University

Team Durham


Duathlon success for Team Durham Tennis Player

(25 June 2021)

Second year maths student and competitive tennis player, Liv French, hadn’t ridden a bike since childhood until her Dad encouraged her to join him during the first lockdown last year whilst tennis centres were closed and an Achilles injury prevented her from running. Fast forward 14 months and Liv has not only found herself a new hobby but has exceeded all expectation to become the duathlon 20-24 age group champion at the GB Team Qualifiers, booking herself a place in the world championships in Australia in 2022.

The St Chad’s Student has had a whirlwind of a year and when lockdown forced the closure of tennis centres across the country, Liv took up road biking in her spare time. What started as a hobby turned into a keen passion and on returning back to University, once restrictions allowed toward the latter end of 2020, Liv joined the Team Durham cycling club as a way to structure her training and expand her knowledge of the sport. As lockdown 2.0 began, Liv returned home, with a cycling plan from coach, Phil Smith, to help focus her training over the winter months.


Although Liv has had to adapt to perform to a high level in her new sport, parallels can be drawn between her tennis and cycling. Throughout her tennis career, French has had a lot of experience of coping and performing under pressure, as well as knowing when is best to push her body but also understanding when rest and recovery needs to be prioritised, skill sets she has seamlessly transferred into her new cycling career.


Just one week before she qualified for the World Championships, French entered her first ever duathlon race. She practised her transitions on the roads outside her student home in Durham which clearly paid off as she finished second female overall. Little did she know that just one week later she would have booked her place in the World Championships in Australia 2022.


Liv’s success has been the product of dedication and hard work, over the past year she has worked with a number of Team Durham coaches to improve her technical work, nutrition, strength, power and recovery as well as managing to fit her studies and tennis in and around her intense training programme. A huge task but one that has been worth the effort as Liv has since trialled for the Team Skoda Driving Seat Initiative (DSI) riding academy under Paralympian Dame Sarah Story at the Olympic Park. She beat off strong competition from over 100 female athletes during the testing day with the academy supporting female riders who have the desire to transition to a professional race team at the end of the 3 years in the programme.


French comments: “I’m so pleased to have been selected for the Skoda Cycling Academy. I was not expecting it at all and to be honest it hasn’t quite sunk in yet! I’m looking forward to meeting the other riders, learning from Dame Sarah Storey and seeing how far I can progress in cycling.”


Head of Sport Mark Brian said, “We are incredibly proud of Liv and what she has been able to achieve in the last year alone, especially with the year we have just had. This is the perfect example of how you can balance your academic study with a successful sporting career, or careers (!), whilst also enjoying your university experience. We wish her the very best of luck for the trials and look forward to following both her tennis and duathlon journey from here.”



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