Newnham student named ‘most committed’ in Sports England awards

Sarah Leiter

A Newnham sportswoman who juggled her PhD studies with playing Goalball around the world has just been given the ‘most committed’ trophy at the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme Star Awards 2017.

Sarah Leiter, of Newnham College and the Cambridge Dons Goalball Club, was named as the winner during a ceremony at the IAAF World Championships after an independent panel including Olympic silver medallist Shelley Rudman, Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown and BBC Sport’s Joel Goldman judged the nominations. 

Goalball was originally devised as a rehabilitation programme for injured soldiers returning from the Second World War. It is the only Paralympic team sport designed specifically for the visually impaired. Played with raised markings on the floor, blindfolds are used to ensure an even playing field as players locate the ball through sound.

It was a big hit during the London 2012 Olympic Games with crowds cramming into the Copper Box to support the men and women’s teams.

Since then the sport has grown in popularity with eleven extra domestic tournaments being added to the calendar for the upcoming season, which begins this month.

As a sportswoman on Sport England’s Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), Sarah’s has balanced her training schedule with her PhD research which investigated the genetic causes and cellular mechanisms underlying hypoinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia.

She has now submitted her thesis and will return to complete the final year of her medicine degree as part of an MB/PhD programme. She hopes to pursue a career in genetics and rare disease research.

Sarah, pictured with her award, said: “The TASS support I have received in Cambridge over the past two years has been invaluable as I have juggled my studies and training for the GB women’s goalball team. I was honoured to be recognised.

“We had a fabulous day out at the IAAF world championships. It was amazing to see three goalball players shortlisted as we are a small sport.”

Guy Taylor, TASS national director, said: “Sarah is a remarkable student-athlete; her ability to juggle her studies in Medicine with playing goalball at the highest standard is exceptional. She has been entirely committed to her dual-career this year and is a credit to TASS. Congratulations to Sarah on all her achievements.”