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programs of study university students and elite sport, united thanks to the Sports Talent Program

71 students from the University are part of the Sports Talent Program

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The sportsman Nicolás Quijera. PHOTO: Courtesy
28/10/14 16:57 Jesus Alvarez

Being an elite athlete requires many skills, such as being organized, consistent and self-sacrificing. But, above all, what those who want to dedicate their lives to sport need most is time. A lot of time. This is the reason why many young people who during their training primary and secondary school have practiced some level of sport decide to give it up when they reach university. 

In order to make it possible to study a degree program and practice a sport professionally, the University's Olympic programs of study Center (CEO) launched, in the 2012-13 academic year, the Sports Talent Program.

In this third edition, in which 99 applications have been received, of which 71 have been chosen, the program makes available to athletes services such as tutorial, sports and medical (including physical preparation and dietetics), as well as credits ECTS credit. For the selection of athletes, the program has rewarded the levels of competition in which they participate (from international to regional), the weekly hours of dedication or the sports results obtained the previous season. By Schools, those who contribute most students to the Program are Tecnun, with 28 (17 men and 11 women) and Medicine, with 14 (7 for each sex). In terms of sports, team disciplines are the ones that attract the most students, with 12 in athletics, 11 in basketball and 6 in soccer; while in individual sports, swimming (6), canoeing (5) and taekwondo (4) stand out. 

But what do the beneficiaries themselves think? Irati Mendía, 3rd year Engineering student and sixth in the Spanish OPEN 10 km circuit, thinks it is reassuring to know that the University supports her and makes it easier for her to continue practicing sport at a high competitive level, based on her experience, since this is the third year she has been part of the Program. This reflection is also shared by Miguel Olavide, a first-year economics student and third division soccer player, for whom motivation on the part of the advisors is fundamental. "I believe that if you want to do both things, you can. You just have to put more effort, more sacrifice and, above all, more organization in your sporting and academic life", adds Amaia Benavente, partner of class of Irati and champion of Spain of 1000km K-1 (canoeing) U-23.

They all agree that this pioneering University program is essential for them to be able to reconcile their two lives. "It is essential that there are universities that allow to combine sport and programs of study. This initiative has to be expanded to the rest of Spain because this way we will improve the conditions of the athletes", says Nicolás Quijera, from 1st of Economics and 7th in the World Junior Athletics Championship. For her part, María Contreras, bronze medalist in the World Parataekwondo Championship Moscow 2014 and 4th year Architecture student, especially values the support given by the Program in the field of preparation, everything related to the facilities of sports center and the medical and nutritional attendance . 

The important thing is the athletes, not just the sport.

Javier Trigo, director of the CEO, faces this third edition of Talento Deportivo with enthusiasm and ambition. For him, the differentiating feature of this program with respect to others is that what is fundamental is that the athlete really wants to study. "We conceive the University as the institution that gives training integral and this consists of helping each one according to his or her needs. There are people for whom playing sports is a very important part of their time, so they have to be helped in some way." This commitment to study in young athletes is one of the main requirements to continue in the program or access it, since"athletes have to show that they want to continue with their sport but without abandoning the academic and sports training that they receive from Talento Deportivo". Trigo explains that the Program is already established at the University and that the lines of action that are intended from the CEO now are two: to seek funding, both from individuals and companies, to create scholarships for athletes (whose goal would not only finance the program but also the expenses of the programs of study of the scholarship holder) and present Talento Deportivo before the European Union, an institution that has already shown interest in the Program.