Anna Morris: From intensive care doctor to world champion cyclist
Ian Parker, PA
Anna Morris became a world champion in the velodrome this week but two-and-a-half years ago she was working as a junior doctor in intensive care during the peak of the pandemic.
Morris, 28, was part of the Great Britain team that won the women’s team pursuit crown at the UCI Cycling World Championships on Saturday night, and then reflected on the “whirlwind” journey that got her to this point.
She had recently graduated from medical school and begun clinical placements when the pandemic took hold in early 2020, and was soon shifted to intensive care work as case numbers spiked.
“They needed extra support so I went into intensive care for a couple of weeks over the peak, just trying to support the nurses in any way we could, patient bedside care and anything we could,” she said.
“The team that we had there was incredible. I think everyone had to pull together to work alongside each other and support each other through it.”
Morris was a latecomer to cycling, only taking it up seriously at the University of Southampton as a member of the triathlon club, but quickly reaching a level where she could apply for support from Welsh Cycling and target a place at the Commonwealth Games.
She was still in the early stages of pursuing that goal when Morris found herself on the front line in the fight against Covid-19. Getting on the bike became a means of escape.
“There were definitely times where it was tough,” she said. “When I was working, your job has to take priority, your patients are your priority. There were times where training wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Or you’d finish later than you would hope so you would have less time in the evening.
“It helped as a bit of an outlet, being able to ride my bike and have that external focus, especially during the first wave of Covid when I guess there was a loss of structure.
“It was all new. We didn’t know exactly how everything was going to operate in hospital. The one thing that stayed the same was that I knew what training I had.”
Morris was part of the Welsh team pursuit squad that was fourth at the Commonwealth Games, also taking sixth in the individual event, and soon found her way to British Cycling’s senior squad.
Last year, she won team pursuit silver at the World Championships in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines before going one better this time around.
After Saturday’s final, team-mate and fellow Welsh cyclist Elinor Barker pointed to Morris and her experience in intensive care when discussing ways to handle the pressure of competition. And it has certainly given Morris some grounding.
“I think it’s quite easy in the moment to feel very stressed and pressured, but it’s nice to bring it back into perspective at times, having worked in some of the environments I have,” she said.
“It’s stressful and pressured, but it’s a different stress. With something like the team pursuit you’re in a team, you want to do well for the team, but it’s very different.”
It is a remarkable coincidence that Morris and Barker were in the same year at the same school, Llanishen High School in Cardiff, and have found their way into the team pursuit squad along with another graduate, Elinor’s younger sister Meg.
As they spoke to reporters in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s title, it was Barker holding court with reporters while Morris stood off to one side, happy to let others have the spotlight.
“I think it’s all quite new to me and it’s been quite a whirlwind of a journey,” she said later. “I’m just trying to take it all in.”
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