Early selection for Team Scotland gives Edinburgh squash player Harry Leitch time to fine-tune his sport, and his sport-work balance. By coincidence the 28 year old’s medical career starts on the same week as next summerâ€™s Commonwealth Games.
“I’m due to start in the hospital the week of the Games and now I know I am selected, I will make it clear on my application that I need a week’s holiday.”
Whilst most people would find this a daunting prospect, Leitch, who is close to completing his MB/ PhD at the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge where he is a researcher in stem cells, epigentics and developmental biology, is experienced in high level balancing acts. He represented Team Scotland at both the Melbourne and Delhi Games, on both occasions combining high performance sport with his medical studies.
“For me it’s always worked out okay”, he continues. “Sometimes I didn’t get as much rest as some of the pro athletes but when it’s not your job you have that more naive, kid-like enjoyment of it. And I certainly have that. I just enjoy all the things that I do.”
If there is such a thing as a double life then Leitch leads it. So apart does he keep his two worlds that many close to him at the university don’t even know he plays squash.
“It is bizarre but a lot of my medical friends may not realize that I play squash”, he admits. “And last time during my PhD my supervisors didn’t realize that I played much squash, so when I asked for a few weeks off to go to Delhi they were a bit surprised.”
A semi finalist in Delhi and quarter finalist in Melbourne, Leitch views his four yearly Games appearances in terms of consecutive, progressive steps. With doubles partner Alan Clyne he believes they can go one better in Glasgow.
“The goal is a medal”, he reveals. “The thing about doubles is it’s a very equal playing field. It’s a relatively new sport and we are fully aware there are lots of good teams out there and we have to perform on the day.”
“We had a good experience in Delhi and we know if we play our best and if we get the momentum going that we can medal and if we can medal then we can get gold.”
In Delhi, Leitch and Clyne beat the hot favourite English pair although their upset took place on a backcourt with few spectators. Crowds, hopefully in the thousands, are what Leitch wants in Glasgow next summer. He is even looking forward to the media attention and the pressure of expectation.
Of course Glasgow will be very different from anything that has come before and like the other athletes, Leitch is anticipating the once in a lifetime chance to compete in front of a home crowd.
“Glasgow is going to be hugely different to the other Games”, he adds. “My family never made the journey to Melbourne or Delhi and I’ve got a brother and sister and four nieces and nephews and I think just having those friendly faces and a lot of noise supporting us will be great.”
“We’ve got a very experienced team, still quite young, but experienced. All the ingredients are there so there’s nothing holding us back to really perform in Glasgow.”
You can follow Harry on Twitter @HGLeitch
Photo Credit: Duncan McEwan