Updated: Dec 13, 2017
Hi, my name is Gary Bartlett I am a professional athlete and full time squad member on the British Snowboarding Team representing Great Britain in Snowboard cross. I am also a qualified medical doctor specialising as a GP AKA #snowboardingdoctor.
Snowboard cross remains to be a niche sport however, popularity for this sport is ever increasing in the UK. Go outside of the UK and you will find that the sport is hugely popular amongst European countries as well as other winter sports nations. For those unfamiliar with the sport, it's a bit like motocross racing except you are racing up to 5 other athletes on a snowboard down a track of obstacles made from snow.
I am originally from Wiltshire and have been snowboarding since I was small child. I have my Dad to thank who first took myself and my brother on our very first winter sports holiday to the Austrian Alps. I realised a natural flair and major passion for the sport from that very first moment I strapped myself on to a board. Having spent the majority of my first week of snowboarding fallling over onto my backside (and with a brisued derier may I add), I quickly fell in love with this sport.
I attended Leeds University in 2004 graduating in medicine 2010. After finishing university, I made the decision to remain in West Yorkshire to continue my postgraduate training as a doctor and fully qualified as a General Practitioner in August 2015.
I attended trials for the British Snowboard Cross Team in July 2015 and was successfully selected to join the team by a panel of national coaches and Zoe Gillings. Zoe Gillings has competed in three previous Winter Olympics in Snowboard cross who I now train alongside and am proud to call my team mate. Zoe is now training hard for her 4th Winter Olympics.
I currently represent Great Britain in international FIS and European cup competitons all across Europe. I am working extremely hard to achieve my ultimate aim and goal which is to compete in Snowboard cross at world cup level and the Winter Olympics.
Fortunately for me, I went into GP training which must be one of a few medical specialities that allows you to juggle two very different careers simultaneously. As snowboarding is largely seasonal, I spend my winters (October to April) living abroad in the Austrian alps training and competing all throughout Europe. This allows me to fully commit and focus 100% to my sport. I do not practice medicine whilst living abroad. My summers are mostly committed to working as a GP (April to October). Although, I am no longer training in the mountains over the summer season, I still have commitments to snowboarding and continue to train in the gym 5 days a week and snowboard in my local dome attending freestyle nights so, that I may stay on top of my skills and that my legs are free from rust. If you ever come across me on the slopes (either UK or abroad) please feel free to come and say hi.
April 2017, I agreed to a 'snowboard contract' and now work as a salaried GP 4 sessions a week over the summer. To top up my income over the summer period, I work regular locum sessions around my salaried doctor commitments. I feel very fortunate to have a flexible salaried contract, as this helps to ensure a regular income and job stability as well giving me that all important sense of teamwork and comaradery with my fellow colleagues. In terms of revalidation and appraisal, my obligations are no different to a GP who works full time and must fulfil the requirements each year to get signed off.
My summer work as a GP helps to fund my ambition of becoming a snowboarder at the highest level possible. I am lucky enough to have a number of sponsors who help to ease the financial burden as there is very little funding when it comes to snowboard cross from Snowsports England and British Ski and Snowboard. I am sponsored by 'Ride' who are a major international snowboard brand, 'Glide & Slide' which is a great action sports shop based in Otley and caters for all my snowboard servicing needs who also ensure that my boards run as fast as possible!! Also, I am sponsored by 'Bio-Synergy' who are a speciliast sports nutrition brand and 'Secret Street Tailors' who are a local Leeds based buisness specilising in designing and creating awesome street ware apparel. I am always looking for more sponsorship largely in the way of funding. Every penny certainly helps and I always look for ways to get involved with relevant projects.
It's not all plain sailing, having two careers can make life very hectic and sacrifices have to be made to allow me to follow my passion of snowboarding and representing my country. During the winter season, training can certainly take its toll on the body with the risk of injury being high. I snowboard on average 5 days a week for around 6 hours a day, re-fuel back home and then have a further 1-2 hour gym/fitness session in the evening. There are definitely times when I do not feel like training because my body is sore or the temperature oustide is -30C and you are unable to see more than a few feet through the thick cloud. However, a large part of being an athlete is the mental ability to cope with the demands of training and staying focused on your goals when you are your most deflated to pull you through these slumps. On the flip-side when training is going well, the jumps are being landed, definite measurable progress is being made and you are racing to your best ability, the sport feels incredible helping you to forget those bad days when things are just not going right.
If you like the sound of what you hear and are keen to follow me further then please do check out and follow my professional athlete pages which can be found at:
https://www.instagram.com/garybartlettgbsbx/ - Instagram
https://twitter.com/garybartlettSBX - Twitter
Lastly, at the risk of sounding cliche, if you do have a second career in mind alongside general practice, then certainly do not be afraid to pursue other passions, ambitions and dreams as you never know how life might turn out!! Being a GP certainly has given me the flexibility to do this. You never know what just might happen??!
Written by Dr Gary Barlett