Buxton’s Abbie Wood wasn’t a fan of swimming as a youngster, but quickly realised her passion for the sport after being dragged to the pool by her mum and sister.
The 20-year-old began competing aged 10 and was asked to join Derby’s elite squad – Derventio eXcel – a year later.
At the same time her school-mates were sitting their GCSE exams, Wood was collecting a European Games gold medal in Baku, and she has since gone on to compete at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
Having just finished her second year studying criminology and social policy at Loughborough University, the European junior medallist admits balancing work and training isn’t always easy, but it is well drilled into her.
Ahead of this week’s World University Games in which she will compete in the 200m IM, 400m IM and the 400m freestyle, Wood said: “I was never really a fan of swimming, but my mum swam at a high level and then my sister got involved.
“I had to go and watch because there was no-one to look after me at home, and I just went along with what they were doing.
“I’d done swimming lessons, but I started taking it more seriously when I was about eight and I was competing at nationals by the time I was 11.
“I don’t think I found the balance between training and studying as hard as people might think.
“I was obviously competing during my GCSEs, but I didn’t really know any different and I just had to make the two work together.
“If I hadn’t swam my exams might have gone better, but I got into college and university, and won European Games gold, so I’m happy.
“I think it was hard at school when I had to miss out on social occasions and I was doing something different to my school friends, but that got easier when I moved to Loughborough.
“My best friends at university are swimmers. We’re all in the same boat but we can relax and enjoy ourselves as well.”
Having competed at several multi-sport events at such a young age, Wood is relishing the opportunity to get her first taste of WUGs action.
She said: “The Commonwealth Games was one of the best experiences I’ve ever been part of and I’ve heard that this competition’s even bigger.
“Multi-sport events are always exciting as there’s a lot more going on compared to a standard swimming meet.
“Obviously you do your job in the pool, but I find that excitement just makes you thrive more.
“I think the standard’s going to be really good as a lot of the swimmers will have just missed out on the World Championships and will be using it as a warm-up for Olympic trials.”
With the Tokyo Games only a year away, Wood is clear on her goals going forward and is already planning for later life.
She said: “I’m trying to give myself the best possible chance of making the team for the Olympics, but I just need to see what happens.
“As much as you want it to, swimming doesn’t last forever, but once that fades away a career in sport isn’t really what I’m interested in.
“Obviously I love swimming, but I think when I’m out of it I’d like to use my degree and go into something like the police and investigation.”
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, organising leagues and competitions for more than 150 institutions across 52 different sports. For more information visit bucs.org.uk