World and European silver medallist Philip Milanov is one of the planet’s leading athletes in the discus circle. Here the 25-year-old Belgian talks about the challenge he faces training as a world-class athlete and studying a demanding course at university.
Balancing work, training and play
“Since I was young I enjoyed playing games and drawing and maybe creating something for a video game was a natural fit for me, and that it why I study a bachelor of digital arts and entertainment at Kortrijk University.
“I am motivated equally for my studies and for throwing discus and to work towards my bachelor is a good distraction for me – it is like a hobby and it keeps me relaxed.
“Having said that, combining both can be very demanding. Every Monday to Wednesday I have full days. I wake up at 6am and train and then I’m at school from 8.30am until 12.30pm and then I’m back at 2pm. Later I might sleep a little or work an hour and then I’ll go to training on the evening or work some more on my studies. It is pretty intense.
“I can switch my exam dates and split the year to make life easier, but the demands of the course sometimes make it tricky to train twice a day and sometimes I can’t because of school. Other times I miss school to train.
“Also because the course is very practical, sculpting a face on a computer or learning to programme takes a lot of time. We also carry out group work in which a team of five or six people can come together. At the moment, we are making a robot which destroys itself. It is a pretty cool project. We have 3D artists and concept artists while I work on the animation.
“In the future, I would like to produce and design animation characters like Ironman but this will take time. Very much like athletics, the more you put into the more you get of it so there are no short cuts. This makes it very difficult to say how long you are going to devote to a particular subject matter because it is hard to predict how anything will take. It is also hard to sometimes sit in a chair for hours and then go out to train as you are mentally not in the right shape.
“But although it is hard, I try to have some downtime and I find a way to cope.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF