Shield sits well with degree

With her University of Otago physiotherapy studies behind her, award-winning cyclist Sequoia Cooper is keen to seek further international cycling success next year. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
With her University of Otago physiotherapy studies behind her, award-winning cyclist Sequoia Cooper is keen to seek further international cycling success next year. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
New Zealand women's elite cycling squad member Sequoia Cooper will have at least two good reasons to celebrate when she graduates from the University of Otago today.

By gaining her bachelor of physiotherapy degree, Miss Cooper (22) is not only completing four years of demanding study at the university but has also just been awarded the Otago School of Physiotherapy's prestigious Athletic Shield.

''I'm just so super-excited. It's just so cool to have this kind of event to end your studies,'' she said.

She will be one of more than 270 graduands graduating in person, mainly in dentistry and physiotherapy, in a ceremony at the Regent Theatre, Dunedin, at 4pm today.

About 260 other Otago graduands, mainly in medicine and medical laboratory science, will graduate in person at an earlier ceremony, at 1pm. The Athletic Shield is awarded to the final year physiotherapy student ''who has demonstrated outstanding sporting achievement and academic excellence''.

Gaining the Athletic Shield, and her bronze medal at the Oceania track cycling championships in Adelaide last weekend were ''just so motivating''.

Tasting ''a bit of success'' in this way was encouraging her to try for more.

She is an endurance rider who has been a member of the New Zealand women's elite cycling squad for the past three years.

And she has already enjoyed considerable cycling success at national and international levels.

A former silver medallist as a New Zealand junior, she finished third in the omnium at Adelaide.

Miss Cooper, who hails from Invercargill, had found it ''a bit of a battle'' fitting together her extensive academic study requirements- including final year internships in Dunedin and Invercargill-and her desire to train and compete as a cyclist, nationally and internationally.

The support of her fellow physiotherapy students had played a crucial role in her success, and some were already ''life-long friends''.