Bristol medical student training to challenge world's best Ironmen at Lanzarote triathlon

Matt Kaminer fits up to 20 hours of training a week around studying to be a doctor Credit: PA

A Bristol medical student has qualified as a professional Ironman triathlete - despite only beginning training in 2020.

Matt Kaminer took up the sport after his GCSE exams were cancelled during the Covid pandemic, but it has taken him almost four years to earn his Ironman licence.

The 19-year-old has decided to continue his studies at the University of Bristol while training, meaning he now has to fit up to 20 hours of exercise a week around lectures and hospital placements.

Matt said: "Getting this professional licence has been a dream of mine since starting the sport.

“It is both incredibly exciting, but also very daunting to be able to compete against some of the best athletes in the world.

“I have admired many of them and followed their careers for several years, and I am very proud that I will get the opportunity to be on the start line against them.

“The standard I am now competing at will be a massive step up, but I am excited to give it my best shot and see where it takes me.”

Matt Kaminer came sixth in his first ever Ironman race and has gone on to win several. Credit: PA.

Matt added that time away from the classroom, no exams and a cheap road bike from his local cycle shop swept him into the sport.

"Without GCSEs I had six months of doing nothing. I just ran and rode my bike all the time. Suddenly I realised I was pretty hooked,” he said.

“I had a low period a few years before and that drove me to really pursue stuff, to achieve things and really try my best.

“An Ironman had always been on my bucket list. With med school coming up I just went for it.”

A full Ironman involves a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile cycle and a 26.2 mile run.

Matt's first attempt came just five weeks after his 18th birthday, making him the youngest of the 3,000 competitors taking part. Matt came sixth overall and first in his age group.

“It was surreal," Matt recalled.

"The organiser said I was the youngest to ever qualify for the Ironman World Championships.

“Sadly, I couldn’t compete because it clashed with the start of med school.”

But having now won several races, Matt has earned his professional licence and can compete for hefty prize pots.

Matt, who grew up in North London before coming to Bristol for his degree, will be competing for South Africa, which is where his parents are from.

He is now focusing on his first Ironman as a professional: Ironman Lanzarote on 18 May.

Matt Kaminer said: “I train 15 to 20 hours a week around my degree. I can’t say I love every swim or getting up early on Sundays for intervals, but I really, really love the sport.

“Doing a medicine degree definitely helps my training – things like the biomechanics of running, how to manage soreness.”

Matt has recently picked up sponsors, including free coaching and nutrition, and he does a lot of his training in his university’s sports facilities.