Junior downhill world champion Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) has been been weighing the pros and cons of turning pro versus immediately furthering her education. The 18-year-old British racer has put off starting a degree program to focus on World Cup competition next year.
"I want to concentrate on downhill racing for at least one year - maybe more depending on how it goes, perhaps delay university even further," said Carpenter to the BBC.
She has been accepted into the science and Spanish degree course in Manchester, but come next fall, she'll have to decide all over again whether to start school or delay further.
"Having more time off university will give me a chance to become more independent and a bit more mature," she said. "But I guess, as an athlete you peak in your early 20s, so maybe I should work at that for a few years and see how it goes," she said.
Carpenter is fast enough to be ranked 10th among the elite women at the end of the 2011 World Cup Season. She was also the top junior woman in the series.
Her skills have come from an extensive background in riding downhill, BMX and motorbikes.
2011 wasn't the first year she was going for rainbow stripes, but her plans did not work out so well in 2010. One weekend prior to the world championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada, she crashed and broke her arm. Surgery and recovery followed.
"To be honest, with injuries, pain comes with the sport, with training and crashing. But the most annoying thing is when you can't compete and when it makes you miss part of your season, part of your training, especially when it's a big race like the world champs."
What the future will hold for Carpenter remains to be see. Unlike cross country, downhill is not an Olympic sport, so many racers chose to focus on World Cups and the world championships.
"It's a shame it's not in the Olympics and hopefully in my time racing, maybe it will be," said Carpenter. "I've always thought, possibly once I've had a few years racing with this, maybe you could try a different sport, cross country or BMX.
Carpenter will kick off her 2012 World Cup season with the first round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in mid-March.
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