Interviewer Shania Parker
Interviewee Cooper Sayers
What are you studying at UniSA and what’s been your experience with studying online??
I’m studying a Bachelor of Business Management and Law; I have been studying for the last two years after I transferred from a different degree. My experience with online study has been great. I started studying online just before Covid hit, so when everything went online, I was already prepared and comfortable to continue my study. I love studying online because it means that I can train and go to work without having to go on campus. It means that I can be far more organised and study in a flexible way; I can also prioritise my time if needed. The staff at UniSA are fantastic and always help you out where they can, it makes the degree super easy to do.
How did you get into cycling?
I got into cycling in 2015—I was picked up by a schools “Talent Search”, which is where the South Australian Sports Institute select athletes that they think will be suitable for certain sports. At the time I was playing soccer at South Australia’s highest level and looking to break into the Junior Australian team. When I got this opportunity, I took it and never looked back… from then I have worked my way up through the ranks. I began in a school program and have reached the highest level in Australia.
Tell us about your cycling journey?
I’ve enjoyed my time in cycling and I have come a long way since the start. Being quite late to the sport and joining when I was 15, I was behind the eight-ball, compared to my competitors who had been riding since they were around 7 years old. So, I developed quite quickly in the first few years, I made a lot of progression with my first big results coming in u17’s with multiple national medals. Following that, I got hit by a car and fractured my L4/5 facet joint in my back, and both arms. I still have a lot of back issues now from the extent of the injury, but when you love the sport you do anything to get through it. In u19’s was when I had my best results, I became an Australian Champion in the Points race and won 3 other national medals. I also won medals in 4 Oceania championships (The best cyclists from Australia and New Zealand). This meant that at the end of 2017 I went to Italy to represent Australia at the Junior Track World Championships. The experience of riding for your country and wearing the green and gold colours was one of the best experiences in my life. I definitely thought that this would set my entire career up for success, however, that wasn’t the case.
A few health issues meant that I wouldn’t progress as I hoped. I continued to get fantastic results but I was told “You’ll never progress in the sport of cycling” and “You are physically incapable of ever achieving anything in the sport”. This was a huge set back, and trust me, in this sport, I have had so many of them, but this one almost had me walking away. Nevertheless, I picked myself up and self-funded a trip to Belgium because I had never accepted an opportunity in road cycling, I had only focussed on track cycling (which is on the velodrome). This trip made me love the sport again, I saw a new dream that I wanted to chase. But then of course Covid hit and being in the age category of u23’s this was the make-or-break years of your cycling, as this is when you get many opportunities and show professional teams what you’re capable of.
In 2021, I was supposed to represent Australia in Road World Championships, as I was one of the best u23 riders in Australia—there were multiple overseas races that I was supposed to take part, but wasn’t able to. Again, a huge set back, but I was still focusing on what opportunities I could take, as there were limited races in 2021, I did what I could and had to in order to reach the top 10’s in Australia’s biggest races, which was putting me on the radar of bigger and better things—I just needed to break through and get a win. Instead, I took part in a competition where 150,000 people were competing for a Professional Contract to race on one of the worlds biggest teams. I travelled to Spain where we were put through our paces and ended up finishing second. I was super happy to get to where I did but disappointed that I didn’t win. In 2022, I will be going overseas, to follow my dream and race in some of the biggest races in the world to get a professional contract.
My journey through cycling has been a long and hard one, but a very enjoyable experience. I have had so many setbacks, but these are the things that make you increasingly hungry for success. I am so optimistic that things do happen for a reason and every bullet in your armour is just a character-building exercise to make you ready for when your time comes. I am so passionate about cycling, and I am excited about my future in the cycling industry.
What has it been like to participate in world renowned cycling events??
To participate in some big events has been incredible, it really makes you humble and grateful for the experiences that you do get to receive and more personally, it makes you reflect on the degree of hard work that you have put in. Cycling, like any big sport, is full of sacrifices and to get where I am in the sport has been tough, and making sacrifices make it tougher but being so dedicated to the sport makes racing and competing at the highest level so rewarding. It’s not until you finish racing these events that you look back and realise how far you have come and what you just did. In 2022, I’m going to be racing the Tour of Britain which I’m super excited about, it’s the UK’s biggest race and one of the world’s most prestigious.
Where do you see yourself in the future having collected a degree and so much experience as a cyclist?
I have been so lucky to experience everything that I have throughout my life—my cycling has taught me so much and has allowed me to grow as a person. My Uni degree has also helped me mature and show me that there is more to life than cycling and that I need to develop a pathway that goes beyond cycling. My degree has kept me very level-headed, and I know with the experience of learning online and my cycling it will help me stay motivated with whatever I achieve. I would love to run my own business or manage a business that I am passionate about. Using the experience from university and my cycling will help me in making decisions under pressure and make sure that I am always educating myself on the best direction to take. I hope to have a long career in cycling, but I know that with all the experiences I’ve had, I will be prepared for whatever life throws at me.