Peter Speight, British Men’s Skiing Champion, discusses pursuing sports and History/sporting history at the Uni of Manchester!

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I first got into freestyle skiing when I moved to Sheffield aged 12. They had a really good dry ski slope there which I used to go to every week. Loads of my friends went and there were hundreds of kids getting taught to ski. I progressed up and got more and more involved in the sport through my teens until I left school at 18 and really put everything I had into skiing from then on!

Yes it has been difficult juggling it all. At the time when I had to decide if I wanted to come to University, going to Manchester was the right choice for a number of reasons, it wouldn’t have worked in any other city. It has been the last few years whilst I have been studying that my skiing has really taken off. But yes it been really challenging; having so much time off, almost the whole winter each year, getting my work done in a small amount of time. I also had a year long period of injury and rehab which I had to get through during my second year.

I have worked really hard to make sure my skiing, study and social life haven’t got in the way of each other which has taken a lot of organisation, forward planning, help from my tutors. It has also been really important to have a good sets of friends back home in Manchester who understand what I have going on. Holding down relationships back home hasn’t always been easy but its just taken that little bit extra determination and the rewards of the lifestyle far outweigh the negatives. The lifestyle really gives you the opportunity to develop life skills, self-management and grow as a person, its hugely rewarding.

To be honest the sport I do is an extreme and very new sport so doesn’t have a long history yet! There are lots of skiers I look up to who are at the top of their game. Free skiing is so cool because it gives you the chance to express yourself and be individual through your sport which is unique compared to other sports. I think that characteristic of the sport has been a huge reason why studying and skiing has worked for me, because you manage yourself and drive the sport in the direction you want to. There are also people that inspire me that are outside of skiing. I really look up to self-driven, independent people that do a lot of things! When you hear about the achievements of successful people on top of their main focus its really impressive.

I finish my degree in June this year and my skiing is going as good as it ever has. So my main short term goal is to really push my skiing for as long as possible and see how far I can get! It has come at a good time that I am coming into a strong position in my skiing just as I am leaving University, which was always the plan when I started! There are lots of individual goals I have in skiing such as certain tricks, performance levels and ideas. The Olympics in 2018 is definitely the next main focus which I am going to try my best to qualify for, but it will be very tough. I’m not thinking beyond that right now but I plan to use everything I have learnt to go into an area of business that interests me.

My dissertation topic is a case study on the Americanisation of Britain through Jazz and music culture in the 1920s. So its definitely not linked to skiing! I think its more of a welcome distraction. I play grade 8 trumpet, Jazz is something I really love so researching around it hasn’t been too hard! I do think all the traveling I get to do through my skiing, especially to America, in relation to my dissertation, has helped my understanding of History in general. I always find myself analysing the culture in the all the places we go skiing in!

Being at Manchester University has helped my sport in a number of ways. You have to hit serious levels of productivity and drive at times in order to make it work so you can really take that focus back into your sport. I find it feeds in together and makes you mentally stronger in your sport. You know how to focus and get a job done. You need that grit in sport. The sport department has been amazing. When I came to Manchester I got a sport scholarship which gave me access to lots of support I had never had before. I wasn’t yet on the British Team so things like Strength and Conditioning and physio, provided by Sport Manchester was hugely helpful in the beginning. I owe a lot to Nicholas Jones and Imogen Williams in the sport dept. They have been there since day one I got here and have helped me hugely through my journey over the last four years.

Advice I would give is to be overly proactive from the start. If you’re genuinely serious about your sport and you have legitimate reasons to go to University, then you have to be 100% committed to getting it done. Barriers only get in the way if you let them. Having said that be smart about your degree and realistic. Make a choice what level you want to get to in your sport, if that level is world class then don’t kid yourself. You need a degree that complements and caters for your sporting commitments. Juggling is hard but every time you push through and reach a new level it becomes easier and easier. Definitely work with the University, both sporting and academic departments from the offset, and be confident but polite and humble in your approach. When you show to people that you’re serious and committed they will help you.

Peter Speight

 

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