Racing against tough competition, 18-year-old Ally Wollaston from the University of Waikato took out first place in Cycling New Zealand’s Criterium National Championships in Christchurch over the weekend.
As one of a few her age competing in the race, Ally says crossing the finish line with first place was a welcome shock.
“I was over the moon, but also really surprised. This is one of the few national races that allow under 19-year-olds to compete, so it was a real honour to take out the winning title.”
“I didn’t expect a win like this at my age which makes this even more special,” says Ally who has a sister who also cycles.
But despite her age, Ally is preparing for the future. With a gruelling schedule, Ally not only trains six days a week but is also in her first year of a law degree at the University of Waikato.
The switched-on athlete says in high-performance sport, it is important to have a backup plan. Speaking with maturity older than her years, she says:
“If I get injured or if I have a bad crash, my cycling career could be over in a matter of seconds. Studying something I enjoy gives me options if I need them and I am really enjoying having something outside of cycling to focus on.”
But Ally isn’t taking her eye off the prize. She is focused, determined and eager to pursue a pathway in the sport if she can. And she credits the Hillary Scholarship Programme for helping her along the journey.
“The Hillary Programme is an incredibly cool opportunity and it means I get to spend time doing what I love day in and day out.”
“The support [from the programme] allows me to give 100% to both cycling and study which I don’t think I would be able to do otherwise. It makes for a good balance,” says Ally.
Greg O’Carroll, High-Performance Student Scholarship Manager says Ally represents the grit and determination of the scholarship’s namesake – Sir Edmund Hillary.
“We are all so thrilled for Ally and the incredible results she has achieved so far this year. She has had to work very hard and manage herself very effectively in order to get that balance right between her study and sport. “
“It certainly isn't easy, but her perseverance has paid off in both her sporting and academic pursuits,” says Greg.
Next for Ally is representing New Zealand at the Cycling World Cup.
Ally hopes that the high intensity training she has become accustomed too since being selected for the NZ Women’s Endurance Squad will set her in good stead for the international competition.
The Hillary Programme is a scholarship which educates future leaders within the values of New Zealand’s greatest adventurer, Sir Edmund Hillary. The Programme was launched in 2005 following a conversation between the University and Sir Ed himself.
Hillary Scholars receive professional development opportunities and fees support for the duration of their study.