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‘It’s like living a double life’: Meet the medical student going for gold on the ice rink

While undertaking her last year of study in medicine at Aberdeen University, Catherine Wright also consistently competes in Britain's biggest national championships.

There are not many people like aspiring surgeon and professional ice dancer Catherine Wright.

In fact, she is one of the only part-time skaters of her kind in the UK.

While undertaking her last year of study in medicine at Aberdeen University, she also consistently competes in Britain’s biggest national championships.

There she goes head-to-head – sometimes rather “ferociously” – against serious full-time skaters and often comes fifth.

Catherine Wright is a medical student and ice dancer. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Most recently, she competed against other part-time skaters in the UK for the first time at this year’s Adult National Open ice-skating championships and came a resounding first place with the highest score overall.

Not the ‘most talented’ ice skater to start with

Now skating for 14 years, there was a time when the now Adult British Champion was swimming laps instead of curving edges.

When Catherine was young, her mum Meryl Plevey thought she was going to be swimmer.

However, every year at Christmas after watching the show at Gosport Ice Rink near Portsmouth, Catherine would beg her for lessons.

It was not until her 10th birthday when she threatened to quit swimming lessons that her mum caved and bought her some ice skating sessions.

Due to her good edging and dancing, Catherine was encouraged to consider ice dance. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

At first believing it to be a momentary distraction, Mrs Plevey soon struggled to pull Catherine off the ice.

“I wasn’t the most talented when I started, I’ll put it that way,” said the 24-year-old. “But I just kept working.”

“Gravity was challenging. I was quite a heavy child and so jumping wasn’t my forte but I as really good at edge work and dance.

“So I was kind of pushed down the ice dance option and never really looked back after that.”

Training helps with ADHD

Ice dancing – unlike the more popular free skating – is a very precise sport.

Describing judging as “very pernickety”, Catherine said every single edge, rotation and toe point is evaluated.

Catherine won gold in pattern and free dance at the Adult World Championships in Sheffield. Image: Catherine Wright.

“You’ve got to show your skating skills are good and that everything looks beautiful,” she said.

In order to keep up with her busy schedule of studies and placement, Catherine trains at Aberdeen Linx Ice Arena nearly every day at 5.45am.

When asked how she survives, she admitted coffee played a big role but said it actually helps her study better.

Recently diagnosed with ADHD, she said: “I have a lot of energy. The reason I skate in the morning, other than the fact I absolutely love it, is that it’s absolutely wonderful for my studies.

Skating has always helped Catherine to focus and said it has been her release. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

“Training in the morning gives me the release so that I can then concentrate on my studies.

“Skating has always helped. It’s always been my release.

“It’s like living a double life. Medicine is nothing like skating and skating is nothing like medicine. And I quite like that.”

Pursued medicine after caring for dad and grandparents

Originally from near Portsmouth, Catherine moved to Aberdeen to be nearer to her mum who now lives in Turriff.

Although she originally wanted to be a vet, she changed her focus to people after her father died of skin cancer.

She and her mum also became carers for her grandparents, and being part of those “tricky” conversations made her see an opportunity that she would not get if she became a vet.

Catherine, who lives in Aberdeen with her three cats, said: “At least with people you can talk to them you can explain what’s happening but with animals you can’t do that.

“So I decided to have lots of pets and to not do that and become a doctor.”

What’s next?

Catherine is looking forward to her graduation in June and plans to carry on skating.

She admitted night shifts could get in the way of training on the ice but there were ongoing talks with the foundation school.

From there, she said she would “see how it goes”.

Catherine will continue to train with her coach and “second mum” Ann Cronin. She also has online lessons with Scottish former competitive ice dancer Mark Hanretty who is based in Sheffield.

Catherine Wright with coach Ann Cronin. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

She skates at level 10 in pattern dance, free dance and field moves and is now setting her eyes on winning the seniors category.

Unlike the Adults category, every skater – apart from Catherine – trains full-time which can make competing very intense.

While there is always more drama and competitors can get “ferocious” – some keying cars and taping up skates – from there winners get the chance to compete in World Championships.

“I’m already Adult British Champion which is amazing,” she added. “But if I were to win seniors as well, which isn’t a complete impossibility… in a few years quite possibly I could go to Worlds.”