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Page updated 31.5.2016

Dietrich paddles in a riptide of studies and sports

Sprint canoeist Miika Dietrich is both a top athlete and a student. It’s not the easiest of combinations, especially with travelling days taking up half the year.

Text: Joni Vainio
Photo: Vesa-Matti Väärä

“I think it was in 1999 when we went to try out canoeing with my school. We had a great team and had lots of fun frolicking in the water. A couple of years later I made it to my first competition and was successful. When I noticed that I was doing ok, canoeing took me by storm”, Dietrich says about his choice of sport.

Dietrich, 25, studies Business Administration at TUAS and specializes in sports management. It was eventually easy to choose the field of study.

“It was a new degree programme back then. It is tailored for athletes, so that they can do sports comprehensively and study at the same time.”

In practice, students apply for the degree programme in Business Administration in the joint application and as the studies progress, select sports management as their specialization.

Dietrich says that deciding to study alongside a sports career was an obvious choice. Deciding to apply to Turku University of Applied Sciences was however a bit of a surprise.

“I applied a couple of times to the faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, but doing sports and studying weren’t a good match and I didn’t prepare very well”, Dietrich says.

“Then this alternative came up. In addition, the coordinator of the Sport Academy of Turku Region Mika Korpela dropped me a hint about the same degree programme.”

Graduation almost on schedule

For the time being, Dietrich has focused solely on preparing for the Olympic qualifications this spring. To his annoyance, Dietrich did not yet qualify for a place at the games. Graduation is already on the horizon, even though Dietrich may not make it to port right on schedule.

“For the past couple of years, I’ve focused solely on sports and preparing for the Olympics. Studying has remained in the background. I’m a bit behind my targeted schedule, but perhaps in a year I will graduate”, Dietrich says.

He says that he hasn’t planned his “civilian” career after graduation, as the target is something a bit closer.

“At the moment the main goal is to graduate”, he laughs.

“The dream of making it to the Olympics was postponed by four years, so the upcoming autumn I will focus on my studies. The plan has to be reasonable so that it contains as much studying as possible, but also leaves room for enough training.”

A good counterbalance to sports

Sometimes students might feel that they don’t have enough time to complete their tasks. More than often it’s about being lazy, even if there was plenty of time. In Dietrich’s situation, it is sometimes very challenging to combine studying with canoe sprint.

“For the past two to three years, I’ve travelled for 150–180 days per year. From September to June I’m abroad practically all the time. After the summer, the World Championships in the end of August, I’ve usually had a couple of months to study. It’s a transition period and then I don’t have to practice as much”, says Dietrich.

Towards new challenges

Even though Dietrich lost out in qualifying for the Rio Olympics this summer, he has clear plans for the upcoming autumn and onward. The canoeist whose main race is 1000 metres is realistic in his goals. He has improved in competitions and training, and gets closer to the top every year.

“The next target this season is the ECA Canoe Sprint European Championships in Moscow, where I’m aiming at a place in the 1000 metres’ A-final. A long-term goal is the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, where I should get a medal", says Dietrich.