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The consultation: the doctor on course for the Olympics

OAR-SOME YEAR: Dr Doyle on a winning streak (image: Jean-Michelle)

Philip Doyle has taken a year out of medicine to represent Ireland at rowing at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. He talks to Tim Tonkin

Rowing was originally a hobby that kind of got out of hand

I only started rowing while in my second year at university but it was just something that took my mind off studying. I don’t see the Olympics defining me as a successful person and I don’t want to be remembered as the rower who did medicine on the side. I want to be remembered as the guy who had a long, good career and was known to be a really good doctor who happened to go to the Olympics.

Back in the day I used to play hockey for Ireland

When I went to university I gave up on sport for a few years. However, it was the 2012 Olympics, and watching rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning do so well, that got me interested. It was 2014 when I really took it up.

The main similarity between medicine and rowing is the mental tenacity that is needed

As a student I was already used to being on the water by 6am and then again at 5pm. I would be out of the house from 5.30am to 10pm every day and would need all my food, supplements and training kits packed and organised for an entire day, so in some ways going to work felt like a bit of a break.

Going to the Olympics means more to me than winning a medal

When we qualified for Tokyo at the semi-finals of the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Austria it was probably more of an elation than when we won a silver in the following finals race. A little bit of me was always worried that, if I went back to work having not accomplished what I wanted to in rowing, I would forever be ‘the guy who left medicine to not go to the Olympics’. Thankfully all the hard work paid off in the end.

I’m having to consume 7,500 calories a day as part of my training regime

The best part is never having to restrict or limit myself in terms of what I eat; I just go ahead without having to think about my waistline, cholesterol or fat, as I know my metabolism and body need the calories. My dentist, however, is having to work overtime as the amount of sugar I’m putting into my mouth for such prolonged periods does have a detrimental effect on tooth enamel.

Philip Doyle is a foundation doctor 1 from County Down

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