Sprinting to success – Derby student joins GB Cycling team

3 April 2023

A University of Derby student has been described as ‘one to watch’ and a ‘star of the future’ after being selected to join the GB Cycling team.

Rhianna Parris-Smith, who is studying BA (Hons) Sport Coaching and Development, has been part of the University’s Sport Scholarship programme since she started her studies in 2020.

Her original sport was athletics – she was part of her county squad – and she only made the switch to cycling over the last three years. Since then, she has finished fourth in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Individual Sprint event and third in the Women’s 500m Time Trial.

Rhianna joined the GB team in June as a Talent ID athlete through its Home 2 Games pathway which has a proven record for converting talent. She is now in the team’s track sprint senior academy which prepares athletes for the podium and feeds into the Olympics, with the U23 European Championships in Portugal this July the next target. She is currently ranked among the top 11 female sprint cyclists in the country.

Rhianna is now taking a break from her studies to train as a full-time athlete but knows that she has the support of the GB Cycling team to return to studying when the time is right for her.

A group of cyclists in a track race
Photo: SWPix

Rhianna said:

“Both British Cycling and the University of Derby have been incredibly supportive in all the decisions I have made so far. From finding out that I would be trialling with the GB squad, they both assisted in finding the best way for me to combine training and studies, coming to a group decision that I would take this year out to put my all into training and get to grips with a new lifestyle. Without their support and guidance, the transitions made would have been much more challenging.”

GB Cycling was based at the University of Derby Human Performance Unit (HPU) and at the Derby Arena Velodrome from February to October last year. Located in the University’s state-of-the-art Sports Centre, the HPU is a dedicated space focusing on sport science and coach development services to coaches, individuals and teams wanting to enhance their performance.

Tom Stanton, Head of Performance Pathways with the GB Cycling team, said:

“The University of Derby was a brilliant partner while we were based in the region and offered us continuity of support and training as our athletes trained for the Olympics. The relationships that we have built and the roots that have been established will hopefully help us to support more athletes in the future when we are training in Derby and the surrounding area.”

The University of Derby’s Sports Scholarships help talented athletes to develop in their sport while also supporting them through their academic studies. Sports scholars have access to a range of benefits, including strength and conditioning and physiotherapy sessions, psychology one-to-one and group sessions, and lifestyle support services.

Find out more about sports scholarships at the University of Derby.

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