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Caroline Groot: the inspiring journey of a Paralympic champion at the University of Groningen

Date:28 November 2023
Author:Groningen Topsportstudiestad
Para cyclist Caroline Groot (Picture: Jan Westman)
Para cyclist Caroline Groot (Picture: Jan Westman)

This academic year, Caroline Groot is the face of the elite sports students at the University of Groningen. Caroline is 26 years old and pursuing a master's degree in criminal law and participates in Paralympic track cycling, specializing in the 500 meters. She is world champion in that event and won a bronze medal at the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo. In 2024 she’s going for gold in Paris.

"I started with ice skating. I was always a skater, but unfortunately, due to a complication from a leg surgery, I could no longer skate at the level I was used to. That's when I got into Paralympic cycling, and eventually ended up on the velodrome one day. I instantly fell in love with the velodrome, so that's where I stayed."

'Sometimes it's a busy week'

"We always start training in the morning, from nine to twelve. In the afternoon, we sometimes have a recovery session or core training, which we can often do at home. Then, if the training hasn't been too intense, I try to squeeze in some studying in between. Sometimes, during a rest week, I can catch up a lot. Sometimes it's a busy week and I can't study for a while. This is how I adjust my schedule to my cycling training.

It actually resembles ice skating a lot. You're on a track, it's all about your own speed, your own time, and it's very explosive—just the way I like it. Much better than, for example, road cycling, where you're in a peloton and dependent on what others do. I find it much more enjoyable to ride a 500 meters purely explosively."

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Caroline on the track of the velodrome (Picture: Jan Westman)

'I want to become a criminal lawyer'

"I didn't know what I wanted to study, and then I thought, 'law seems interesting.' I started with the first year of HBO Law, and I liked it so much that I wanted to continue on to the UG and now want to become a criminal lawyer. So, it turned out to be the right choice by chance.

Things are actually going very well. I completed my bachelor last August. The final grade is in, I passed the course, and now I'm working on my master's degree, so I'm really happy about that.

At the beginning, it was really hard for me to let go of both, but now I've found the peace in it and I know that I just have to accept that it sometimes takes a bit longer. Planning well in advance, discussing with everyone what can and cannot be done, prevents surprises and reduces stress. So now, things are going really well."

'Everything is well organized, and everyone is there for me'

"I've decided to continue my master's degree in Groningen, even though I live in Doetinchem. It's quite a distance, but everything is well organized, and everyone is there for me. They are very flexible. I've never actually had a problem that couldn't be solved so I'm very happy with that. That's why I made the choice to continue my master's degree in Groningen.

You can always contact a study advisor who helps you with that and will go through the program with you, seeing what's is possible. But in general, I make sure that if I know, for example, I have exams and a major tournament in March, I don't schedule those exams. So basically, I'm a student who tries to filter out all the problems in advance and otherwise just contacts early and tries to arrange things."

Bekijk onderstaande video met Caroline. Tekst gaat verder onder de video .

Hoping for a beautiful color medal

"We have one more World Championship before the Olympic Games. That's in March 2024. So, I want to become world champion there, but with a better time than the last time. So that's where I mainly want to improve myself. And then to the Olympic Games, hoping for a beautiful color medal. I had bronze at the previous Olympic Games, so of course that has to improve. If you're not hoping for gold, I don't think you need to go. So I certainly hope for that and I hope that is realistic.

After the Games I will stop track cycling and hope that I have come a long way with my master's degree. The master's takes one year, so if all goes well I will have completed a large part of it. After the Games I will finish it and hope for a nice spot in an office somewhere. 2023 was already a very nice year with my bachelor's degree and the sporting results. Hopefully 2024 will be even better."

Spot on the Olympic Wall at the Zernike Campus

"I think it's great that the UG is so involved in this. I don't often hear that from other athletes who are also studying. I think it's great that Groningen does this, and I'm also very happy that now that I have my bachelor's degree, I can stay on the wall. The worry of possibly having to leave is no longer hanging over my head. So, yes, I'm very happy about that.

Hopefully, I get another spot on the wall next year. I'm not sure how it works. If I get two spots then, or if something is added, but it would be nice if I could add another picture."

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Caroline got a spot on the Olympic Wall at the Sportcentrum of the Zernike Campus (Picture: Jan Westman)


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