The Alumni Interview - Greg Whyte
The Alumni Interview - Greg Whyte
EIS Alumni Newsletter, October 2012
Greg Whyte is a former international modern pentathlete. He competed in two Olympic Games and is a European and World Championship medallist.
Greg joined the English Institute of Sport in March 2004, and is now a Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science and a fitness trainer to the stars.
Q: Greg, can you please give us an overview of your time with the EIS?
GW: I joined the English Institute of Sport as the inaugural Director of Science and Research in March 2004, leaving my role of Director of Research at the Olympic Medical Institute (BOA) where I had served for four years covering three Olympic Games.
In 2004 the EIS landscape was very different to the current view. The EIS was embryonic and had only very recently appointed its first Director, Wilma Shakespear. During my two-and-a-half years at the EIS I oversaw the appointment of over 100 new staff and moulded a science delivery team, many of whom can be seen around the EIS centres today.
Q: What have you gone on to do since leaving the EIS?
GW: I departed the EIS in October 2006 and joined the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University as Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science - a position I still hold.
In the intervening six years I have maintained my involvement in elite sport through a variety of avenues including science advisor to British Rowing, UK Sport Research Advisory Group, science advisor to the English Commonwealth Games Team and multiple specialist referrals across a range of Olympic, non-Olympic and professional sports. I even spent a period of 18 months assisting in the establishment of the Irish Institute of Sport.
On the research front I have continued my interest in cardiovascular physiology in health and disease and having established the UK’s first dedicated Centre for Sport Cardiology at the OMI, I have now relocated to the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP), 76 Harley Street. In addition to cardiovascular research I have expanded my early work in exercise induced asthma and now lead on three WADA funded projects in addition to the establishment of a specialist clinic at the CHHP.
Q: Is there anything you learnt from working at the organisation which has helped you in you current role?
GW: Whilst applied science and research is my first love, it was during my tenure at the EIS that I found myself in an unusual world of celebrity trainer for Comic/Sport Relief. The first challenge was when David Walliams swam the English Channel was whilst I was at the EIS in July 2006. Since that iconic moment I have worked on 11 challenges including coaching Eddie Izzard to run 43 Marathons, helping Cheryl Cole and Gary Barlow and the team to climb Kilimanjaro, and John Bishop to complete his week of hell.
There is no doubt that this slice of life has been incredibly rewarding having helped raise over £17 million for those less fortunate than ourselves, but also challenging (professionally and personally), and most of all, fun!
Q: For you, what was the best thing about working for the EIS?
GW: There is no doubt I gained a great deal of experience and knowledge from my time at the EIS which I have used since my departure. Understanding the mechanics of a multi-centre, multi-discipline service has been valuable in understanding management structure and the invaluable role of intelligent communication. Sport per se is an incredibly difficult environment to operate successfully in and the early days of the EIS were incredibly challenging however, the establishment of a high quality team guided by an experienced management team has enabled the EIS to evolve to its current, critical role in service delivery to elite sport.
Q: What do you believe the futures holds for the EIS following the success of London 2012?
GW: The evolution of the EIS was best exemplified by the incredible performance of Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The medal haul speaks for itself but beneath the breathtaking performances was a multi-layered Olympic and Paralympic Games that was delivered to perfection.
The role of the EIS across science and medicine was palpable in the performances and the accolades proffered by the athletes themselves. It was the organisation, the coverage and the public’s engagement with the Games that gave me a sense of pride and a true feeling of ‘Britishness’. Whilst we remain a football nation at heart, the inspirational performances have highlighted just how great we are across the sports spectrum. The only remaining task is to deliver on the promise of legacy and turn inspiration into participation.
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