There’s an old Russian proverb that says ‘ He who chases two rabbits, catches neither’ and you could probably say that were true for 99% of cases, but Dominic Wooldridge is a different case entirely. Dominic, or DJ (pronounced ‘deej’) as he is known by his friends decided at about 16 years of age that he wanted to be a Doctor and an Olympic swimmer.
Currently, DJ is in his 3rd year of a 5 year medical degree at Exeter University, and having won a Dean’s commendation award in 2015, he’s established himself within the top 10% of his cohort . “I was never one of these people who always knew what they wanted to be from the age of 5’ he says “ I swam first with Okehampton Otters and then with ECSC from age 10.. My brother Alex, now aged 25, was a national swimmer but I swam casually until I was around 16 and then I got an ultimatum to either vacate the top squad or start taking it more seriously. Ultimately, it was the spark I needed’. Since then, DJ has gone from strength to strength. He is the current ASA National champion in both the 50m and 100m butterfly, probably the hardest stroke in swimming. Following his success at the ASA Nationals DJ qualified for Olympic trials in Glasgow this coming April.
Describe your typical week
I get up every morning at 5am and I’m in the pool for 5.30am to train for 2 hours. Around 8am I make my way to either the University campus or to wards or clinics at the RD&E Hospital. Then, 6 nights of every week I get back in the pool for another 2 hours training which equates to around 16 – 19hrs in the pool each week. I also spend 4 hours a week in the gym performing weight-based exercises.
Does either affect your performance in the other?
Sometimes, yes. When I first started my degree, there was a lot of sitting in lectures and after swimming for 2 hours each morning, it was difficult to stay awake. Now though, 4 days a week I am on wards and in clinics ... talking to patients and performing clinical tasks makes it easier. Any free time I have is spent either studying, or training.
How does your routine change leading up to a major competition?
I only really have 2 competitions a year where I would change my normal routine. Eating wise, I eat pretty clean all the time, but 6-8 weeks out from the event I eat ultra clean and no alcohol at all. For the summer nationals I would train in the morning, sleep, eat and train again in the evening 3 weeks leading up.
How do you balance medical school with your swimming?
I’m very lucky to have a wonderful coach in Jo (ECSC Head Coach), who understands me completely. We have quite the straight-talking relationship, and if she thinks I’m not training enough for my goals, she’ll let me know! Otherwise, having a calendar on my phone helps a lot!!
You have Olympic trials in April, talk about what that involves
I gained a qualifying time for the 100m Butterfly when I won the Nationals. I then managed to add the 200m Butterfly to my events list - oh the pain! Typically, there’ll be 3 or 4 butterfly specialists that will get picked for Rio. There’s 1 automatic trip to Rio for anyone who beats a specific time. For those that are under that time at trials, a panel will decide what is best for the team.
What’s your pre-race routine? Do you still get nervous?
I prefer to be as relaxed as possible before I race. I listen to some music and just chill - I quite often dance too. I must look really stupid! Nerves are inevitable but it’s how you deal with them! I actually get more nervous when I’m competing at a small gala for Okehampton than in National finals!
Are there any obstacles to your training?
I struggle with access to facilities. My direct competitors are training in a 50m pool day-in-day-out, which gives them an advantage. I love this city which is why I opted to stay, but it does make it difficult. Furthermore it costs over £5000 a year to fund my swimming career, a figure which is only going to increase as I get more international experience. I’m forever grateful to my parents for the sacrifices that they’ve made to allow me to compete at this level, but the finances are certainly a struggle!
Specialist stroke: Butterfly
Training per week: 23 hours (19hrs in Pool, 4 in Gym)
Highest Achievement: ASA National champion 50 & 100m Butterfly 2015
Current ranking: 3rd in country at 100m Butterfly