THE SCIENCE OF SPORT – DANICA BONELLO SPITERI

After graduating from the University of Malta’s Medical School, Danica Bonello Spiteri’s interest in sports and her medical career were merged through her Masters in Sports & Exercise Medicine, and later on for a second Masters in Sports Biomechanics. She had moved to Leeds back in 2011 and is currently working in sports injury and musculoskeletal clinics both there and in Malta. As a doctor, she’s also responsible for the English Women’s National Football Team U17s when they’re away on training camps and tournaments.

 

The past twenty-one years have also seen her racing triathlon on the international circuit around the world, both at amateur and elite levels. She’s participated and won medals in various high profile races, such as the European Games, European & World Championships, and the Triathlon Championships of the Small States of Europe, with her highest ranking being at 15th place in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. She’s been honoured to be nominated as a top 5 finalist for the Sportswoman of the year Award almost every year for the past fifteen years, winning the award in 2010 and coming in second place in 1998 and in 2011. She’s also grateful to have received the Sportsmanship Award in 1998 and the SportMalta Award in 2011.

Date of Birth: 26th February, 1981

Location: Tarxien

Star Sign: Pisces

Occupation: Specialist in Sports & Exercise Medicine & Triathlete

 

You’re both a Sports and Exercise Medicine specialist and also a triathlete. How do you juggle your personal and professional life?

It’s all about time management, discipline, hard work, determination, striving to get better and never giving up. That is what has led me to being who I am today. It’s not an easy path that I chose, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, as I enjoy the rewards of both my sporting as well as my professional career. My work also takes me away from home from time to time, as I’m the team doctor for the England Football U/17 women, and they tend to have quite a bit of training camps and tournaments, so I go away from home about once a month to accompany the team. Once on tournament or on camp with football, the staff and players are very used to me managing my work as well as my training, and they’re very supportive of this. In fact, at times, I also take my bike with me to keep up with my training programme whilst at work! But I must admit that it does get tiring at times. I’m also quite a resilient person, both mentally and physically, so when there’s work to be done, I don’t shy away from it, but take it all in my stride, be it both in training as well as in my professional work, and I’m not one to take short cuts or avoid responsibility.

I must say that in addition to all this, I have a very supportive husband, Etienne Bonello, who’s allowed me to develop my own sports career and my professional career, despite himself being an international athlete and juggling his full time occupation as well.

If you had to meet any other athlete, who would it be and what would you talk about?

An athlete I greatly admire is Non Stanford, who’s also a world class triathlete and has been through the ups and downs of sport herself – from winning world championship medals, losing out on participation in Commonwealth Games due to injury, but then bouncing back to make it to the Olympics, to be outsprinted to 4th place in the final few metres. I think she’s awesome, has a great yet humble personality, and I’d like to spend more time getting to know her as a person and who she really is and what led her to be who she is today, rather than just about triathlon.

 

What’s your general perception of the local sporting field?

I think that Maltese athletes are amazing because of the way they juggle their personal lives, families, careers and all, and still try to be the best they can be, just for the sake of their love for their sport. Athletes do this considering the lack of proper sporting infrastructure, funding and sporting culture we have in our country. Sometimes, this makes us more resilient as athletes, but at the same time, I wonder how many more athletes could be identified and built should such a set up be created on our tiny island. I believe that opportunities and healthy competition is essential towards developing athletes.

 

Can you talk us through a typical day in your life?

I don’t really have a typical day, as my timetables are so varied. However, a rough outline consists of a 6am start where I roll out of bed and drop into my training kit to get to the gym by 6.30am. I’ll do a two-hour session including the swimming pool next door. Breakfast follows this and my work day starts at 9am. It can take me to clinics, home visits or university lecturing. At around lunch time, I try to have an hour for a healthy lunch, which I would’ve prepared the day before. The afternoon is spent back at work, but I occasionally manage to fit in a training session in the early afternoon, then continue working till late evening. I tend to have more training planned, be it a bike ride or else a run. At times, I also enjoy dance classes, which I attend twice weekly. Once my day is ended I go home for a quick shower and some housewifing. I cook, take care of some laundry, prepare food for the evening’s meal as well as for the following day for myself and my husband, along with some brief cleaning. I then enjoy a proper sit down meal with Etienne.

The final part of my day involves me preparing my bags for the following day – taking out any dirty gym kit and preparing a new one for the following day. I also prepare work bags and work attire. The final thing is to then check my emails, update clinic notes, prepare any training schedules of athletes that I coach or check if they have any queries. It’ll be 10pm by the time I’m done, so both Etienne and I end up falling asleep in front of the TV or after a few minutes of reading.