We Are Randox | Charlotte Dixon World Indoor Rowing Champion
02 November 2021
Charlotte Dixon: Covid Scientist and World Indoor Rowing Champion
One of our favourite things about our We Are Randox series of staff interviews is the opportunity we are given to find out about the unique and interesting talents of our colleagues.
From creative bakers to melodious musicians, motivated youth leaders to athletic sportspeople, many of our staff are just as busy outside of the office as they are in it.
Take Covid Scientist Charlotte Dixon for example. During working hours Charlotte spends time in our Covid-19 testing laboratories – reviewing results before they are sent to the patient, helping her team with any issues they face, and compiling performance reports for management – but outside of work she is impressively the World Indoor Rowing Champion in the women’s U23 500m sprint, having beaten experienced competitors from Denmark, Egypt and Europe in the prestigious World Indoor Rowing Championships.
We caught up with Charlotte to find out about her intense training regime, her goals for the future of her rowing career, and her advice for anyone wanting to try a new sport or hobby.
1. Hi Charlotte, can you tell us about your job at Randox and the main responsibilities of the role?
I work in the Covid-19 Labs at the Randox Science Park in Antrim, as a Reviewer for a type of testing called qPCR. As a Reviewer I load plates of samples on to the machines which perform sample analysis to produce a negative or positive COVID result, and then review the results to ensure they are sent out correctly to the patient.
I am also the Shift Lead for my team, for which the main responsibility is to organise the shift and delegate any jobs that need done, ensuring I appropriately deal with any issues that may arise and communicate with the managers to resolve any problems.
2. What does a typical day look like in your role at Randox?
Depending on whether I’m doing a day or night shift, my day starts at 8am or 8pm with a handover meeting with the managers and other shift leads to discuss any points that need to be noted or carried forward from one shift to the next, and then the two labs for which I am a Shift Lead get deep cleaned. The 12 hour shifts normally involve a mixture of test scanning, witnessing and loading plates of samples, as well as reviewing results. Once I have written the shift report, the day/night finishes with a final tidy of the lab and another meeting with the team managing the next shift, to discuss the report and any issues to be passed on.
3. What was your educational / career background to get to this role?
I studied Biomedical Science at Ulster University Coleraine and graduated in 2019. Once graduated I took time out to focus on my equestrian ambitions and during this time I got the opportunity to compete internationally several times. Unfortunately, Covid-19 halted all competitions, but then the chance to work at Randox arose, and I jumped at the opportunity to put my science background to use.
4. What do you enjoy most about the job and what do you find most challenging?
During the pandemic I was grateful that my role in Covid testing meant I was able to play a direct role in the fight against the pandemic. However, I always say the best part about my job is the people I get to work with. I’ve made some amazing friends in this job and they really can make those long night shifts that little bit easier.
5. Tell us a bit about your title of “World Indoor Rowing Champion” – when and how did you receive this accolade?
Finishing University in 2019 I joined my local gym, Gladiator Training, in the aim to get fitter to benefit my horse riding, which I have done since I was little. I signed up to a 12-week indoor rowing programme and things really just went from there. At the end of 2019 I entered the Irish Indoor Rowing Championships for a bit of fun and won 2 races, before going on to place in the British Championships a few weeks later.
In 2020 things were a little different due to Covid restrictions but thankfully Indoor Rowing events could be held virtually. In December I won both the British and European U23 500m Championships, qualifying me for the World Indoor Rowing Championships.
After I qualified for the World’s, I was granted Elite athlete status which allowed me to train with my Coach at the gym even when restrictions meant it wasn’t open to the public. My training was so focused, and it was during this time that I made the most progress and realised how much I appreciate being able to train every day.
The World Indoor Rowing Championships, due to be held in California, was also held virtually due to restrictions. I had the fastest qualifying time going into the race and finished in Gold with a personal best time of 1:31.6 against competitors from across the world.
6. What does your training involve?
I train for 2 hours, 5-6 days a week. This is either at 5am before day shifts, 4pm before night shifts or 9am on days off. Working long hours means I have to be quite flexible with when I do my training, but I’m pretty used to it by now. What I do during training can vary quite a lot and depends on what type of competition I’m prepping for. In preparation for the World Championships, I rowed 2-3 days a week and then did a large amount of weight training on the other days to increase strength and sprint capacity.
7. What’s up next in your indoor rowing career?
Quite a lot of exciting things actually! I am currently preparing for the Irish indoor Rowing Championships held in Limerick on 20th November. This is my first year in the Senior category so I’m excited to try to go for Gold in multiple races. I have also just been accepted onto the British Rowing World Class Start Squad, a programme set up to find and train future Olympians. Rowing on water is something I have never done but I am so excited to give this a shot and see where it takes me!
8. Can you tell us a little bit about your equestrian interests and achievements?
I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to ride horses since as long as I can remember. I compete mainly in Eventing, which involves Dressage, Showjumping and Cross-Country – a bit like a triathlon for horses! Over the years I have notched up a few major titles including an U18 International Win, a Senior International Win (at only 19 years old), several other International placings and winning Team Gold at the Student Rider World Finals in Switzerland.
9. How do you juggle your time between work, rowing and equestrianism?
Juggling my time can be a bit difficult. Training on top of 12-hour shifts makes for extremely long days. I am so lucky though that I have an incredible team of people who support me with the horses and keep their fitness regimes up during competition season whilst I’m at work, leaving me to focus on riding them on my 4 days off. Riding and training are easy when they’re so enjoyable and I think that is the secret to juggling everything!
I’m very appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been offered at Randox and how accommodating they have been when it has come to my training schedule and I’m so excited for what the future holds with both my future sporting and working careers!
10. How do you like to relax when you have time in your busy schedule?
I really enjoy training and riding so I rarely feel like I need a ‘break’ from it but when I’m not working I just love going out for dinner to relax. I just enjoy eating lots of nice food.
11. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try a new sport or hobby, or take one they have already to the next level?
I think whenever you take up a new hobby or sport you may not enjoy it that much at first, as chances are you won’t be very good at it! The key is to persevere and also find people who make it fun. A community of supportive people is the best thing about any sport. If you want to push yourself to the next level you just have to be prepared to work hard and do things that you haven’t done before. That’s how you’re going to make progress at the end of the day.
We are delighted to have Charlotte with us at Randox as part of our COVID-19 testing programme.
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