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Matt Kaminer: Medical student, 19, becomes professional Ironman triathlete

Matt Kaminer, a 19-year-old medical student from north London who started training when the Covid pandemic cancelled his GCSEs, has become a professional Ironman triathlete.

In his second year at the University of Bristol, he will compete for Triathlon South Africa through dual nationality.

He began training in 2020 and in two years became one of the youngest Ironman World Championship qualifiers.

"Getting this professional licence has been a dream of mine," said Kaminer.

"It is both incredibly exciting, but also very daunting to be able to compete against some of the best athletes in the world.

"I have admired many of them and followed their careers for several years, and I am very proud that I will get the opportunity to be on the start line against them.

"The standard I am now competing at will be a massive step up, but I am excited to give it my best shot and see where it takes me."

When the pandemic hit, Kaminer bought a cheap road bike and quickly embraced the sport.

"Without GCSEs I had six months of doing nothing. I just ran and rode my bike all the time, then suddenly I realised I was pretty hooked," he recalled.

"I had a low period a few years before and that drove me to really pursue stuff, to achieve things and really try my best.

"An Ironman had always been on my bucket list. With med school coming up I just went for it."

At his first full Ironman - a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run - which was only five weeks after his 18th birthday, Kaminer was the youngest of the 3,000 competitors on the start line. He finished sixth overall and first in his age group.

"It was surreal," he said. "The organiser said I was the youngest to ever qualify for Kona [the location of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii]. Sadly, I couldn't compete because it clashed with the start of med school."

Now, with several race wins under his belt, Kaminer has earned a professional licence. He will continue studying at Bristol while competing for hefty prize money.

"On my 17th birthday, I committed to becoming one of a very small number of 18-year-olds who have completed an Ironman triathlon," he said.

"I dedicated my time to training over 20 hours a week, alongside being head boy at Highgate School and completing my A-levels to a standard that would get me into medical school.

"I had to be very determined to push to my physical limits, while not letting my academic and social life suffer.

"With commitment and focus, I managed to achieve my goals across all these aspects of my life."

Kaminer is now focusing on his first Ironman as a professional - Ironman Lanzarote on 18 May.

"I train 15 to 20 hours a week around my degree," he said.

"I can't say I love every swim or getting up early on Sundays for intervals, but I really, really love the sport.

"Studying medicine definitely helps my training - things like the biomechanics of running, how to manage soreness."

Kaminer has recently picked up sponsors, including free coaching and nutrition, and does a lot of his training at the university's sports facilities.

Matt Birch, director of sport, exercise and health at the University of Bristol, said: "Getting a professional licence is often the pinnacle of a triathlete's career. That Matt is 19 and also completing a demanding degree makes this achievement hugely impressive.

"Congratulations to you Matt - we'll all be rooting for you in Lanzarote."

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