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04 February 2022

King's medical graduate is Ireland's first ever Olympic luger

Elsa Desmond is representing Ireland in Luge at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Elsa Desmond graduated with an MBBS from King's medical school, qualifying just last summer. She is now set to represent Ireland in the 2022 Winter Olympics as the country's first ever Olympics luger, and will start the competition on Monday 7 February. 

Elsa is an Olympic Luger, an ice sport similar to Bobsleigh or skeleton and the fastest of the three. Competitors race down a mile long icy track lying on their backs on a small sled, with their feet stretched out in front of them. Reaching speeds of up to 140 kph, concentration and precise control techniques are vital.

I first met Elsa when she entered year 2 of the medical degree programme. She was very clear that she wanted to be both a doctor and an elite sportswoman and had carefully thought through how she was going to balance the two commitments. We worked with her to make sure she was able to meet all her learning and assessment requirements alongside her rigorous training schedule and I’m delighted that she has been able to succeed in both. I wish her the best of luck in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

Claire Sharpe - Professor of Renal Medicine and Head of MBBS Stage 2

Elsa had to balance her training with her intensive study programme when she was completing her third year of medicine, and cites the staff at both King's Sport and within the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine as being critical to helping her manage her time and maintain both commitments. 

Elsa was enrolled in the King's performance programme during her time here, designed to support students in achieving supporting excellence.  

It was great to see Elsa on TV today at the opening ceremony. Her desire to succeed as both an elite athlete and as a proficient doctor was evident from the off and it was a pleasure to work with her in her final two years, to navigate the stresses that Covid placed on both her studies and preparation for the Olympics. She faced the challenges head on with incredible organisational skills, enthusiasm and a determination to succeed and never looking to cut any corners or ask for special treatment. We wish her the best of luck and feel whatever the outcome at the Olympics she is a fantastic role model and the very definition of what a champion is.

Dr Sam Thenabadu - Head of Key Stage 3, Deputy Dean GKT School of Medicine

Learn more about Elsa's sporting career and road to the Olympics in this article, and via a King's initiative: Celebrating Women in Sport.

In this story

MBBS Programme Director