Georgia Winkcup is flying high after an incredible 2019.
The UNSW Arts / Law student had a sensational year, which began with a gold medal and a new record in the 3000-metre steeplechase at the Unisport Australia Athletics Nationals.
From there she took 37 seconds off her personal best time and qualified for her first IAAF World Championships.
“Last year was a good year,” laughs Winkcup.
“In 2016, when I was in second year at uni, I went to World Juniors in the steeplechase and then after that I didn't really race the steeplechase at all.
“So when I finally changed coaches and had a couple of months to really focus on training towards that event, I was able to make a big step forward.”
That step forward has propelled Winkcup into the calculations for the Australian team for the Tokyo Olympics in August.
“The way they qualify for Tokyo in the athletics events now is that it's a points-based system and a rankings-based system,” she says.
“My races from last year will count towards my ranking, which is a good thing.
“I've had a little bit of a disrupted last couple of months, but the focus now is to just continue training for nationals and pop overseas for a few races.”
Now in her final year of study at UNSW, Winkcup reflects on the time she has spent as part of the community.
“I really like the people at UNSW,” she says.
“I’ve found that they're really fantastic. I came here not really knowing anybody or knowing what expect and I've been really pleasantly surprised with the entire experience.”
A big part of that experience has been joining the Elite Athlete Program and learning how to balance study with sport.
“The program has been fantastically helpful,” she says.
“Throughout my degree I've been able to arrange assessment tasks one or two weeks later than the due date, or earlier than the due date, just to be able to get them done around my competitions or my travel.
“It's nice to have a big circle of people who are also student athletes to bounce ideas off, who understand what you're going through.”
Winkcup balances study and training with a part-time job as a paralegal in a boutique law firm, which she finds engaging and interesting.
“I've found that I really love it,” she says.
“I'm hoping to continue with that area of the law and make sure that I have time to do athletics and time to continue to develop my career because I wouldn't want to put either them on hold.”
While it’s challenging to balance so many different aspects of her life, Winkcup is certain she has made the right decision in working towards multiple goals.
“I think it's really important to make sure that you don't pigeonhole your focuses,” she says.
“I find it easier to have sport and study to distract me. It makes sure that I'm really on the ball when I'm giving my time to one or the other.
“I found the trimesters helped a lot with being able to manage sport and study – with the way that the subjects are structured, I'm able to do intensive courses or two courses a trimester.
“It helps to make sure I have time to train and can make all the classes that I need to make.”
Now at the end of her journey as a student athlete, Winkcup has some sage advice for young athletes who are just beginning in theirs.
“I think that it's really important to be patient,” she says.
“I've found that throughout my degree, there have been times when I haven't been performing as well in sport, and I found that studying is a really good distraction from that.
“You shouldn't put too much pressure on yourself if you've had a bad season or a bad subject.
“You can always keep working on things and improve as you go in any area of your life, but sometimes it just takes patience.”