Eleanor McBay ’12 – Doctor, Canoe Polo Athlete

Eleanor is a doctor based in the UK. She also represents Great Britain as a Canoe Polo Athlete, and was a British Canoeing ShePaddles Ambassador in 2020.

Name: Eleanor McBay
Graduating Year: 2012
Current country of residence: United Kingdom

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name was Eleanor Wong when I was at CIS from Year 7 to 13! I moved to London for medical school at UCL and am now working as a junior doctor in the NHS. 

Outside of medicine, I like to be active and do lots of training for a sport called Canoe Polo, a 5-a-side ball sport played in specially designed kayaks (look it up on YouTube!) – my aim this summer is to represent GB at the World Games in the US and World Championships in France. To make time for this, I work 80% part time in my current post. 

Apart from kayaking, I also like to rock climb, cycle, do yoga, play tag rugby and eat large quantities of food to keep up with all of the above!

What is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of being a doctor?

When people see a doctor, it’s probably because something has gone wrong with their health – and it can be a fairly difficult time for them, particularly if they are quite sick. But as a doctor, this is part and parcel of turning up to work every day. I think day-to-day having to balance being compassionate whilst avoiding emotional burnout can be one of the toughest challenges, but also the most rewarding when you are able to help someone during a difficult time for them. 

What is a myth or commonly-held belief about being a doctor that you want to debunk?

That being a doctor equals having no social life. Honestly – it is all about balance and prioritisation. Throughout medical school and my years as a junior doctor so far, I’ve always managed to find time to maintain a relationship and also do sport 3-4 times a week (albeit with an overlap of the two). 

Having a good social and sporting calendar to look forward to outside of work fundamentally gives me a great emotional boost to be 100% when I am at work. 

How did you get into the sport of canoe polo?

I was actually introduced to it at the CIS swimming pool through Mrs Bolton – and when I moved to London I found the Canoe Polo club at university to join and got much more into the sport! It’s also how I met my now-husband. 

What is the worst injury you’ve experienced or observed as a canoe polo athlete?

I broke my right index finger throwing a ball when someone put their paddle too close to block the ball and hit my hand instead. Funnily enough it was actually my husband who commited the foul. But actually because water negates a lot of the forces that happen in contact in the game, you don’t get as many injuries as you would expect from such a physical game. I’ve torn a ligament in my knee at a climbing competition once too. 

You were a British Canoeing ShePaddles Ambassador in 2020. Can you tell us a little more about this role?

As part of the #ShePaddles to increase female participation in paddle sports, British Canoeing launched the ambassador program a few years ago. In 2020 they chose 10 women across different paddlesport disciplines (SUP, whitewater, sea etc) and I got to be part of this wonderful initiative. Due to the pandemic most of this ended up being virtual – but I did get the chance to speak at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, where I got to share my passion for canoe polo in a live interview! 

What do you miss most about Hong Kong?

Definitely the food and the food culture where every street corner seems to have something great to offer – particularly savoury snacks / street food! 

Favourite memory of CIS?

Hanging out in the senior common rooms in free periods or after school.

Quickfire round: answer the first thing that comes into your mind!

  • Guilty pleasure movie: any Disney film!
  • Aisle seat or window seat? Window
  • Ideal weekend activity: Canoe Polo 
  • Celebrity crush: Dua Lipa
  • Glass half full or half empty: half full

You are in charge of picking a five-a-side team for a canoe polo match. Which of your CIS teachers are you taking with you? 

Mrs Bolton

Dr Varro

Mrs Dawson

Mr Wellington

Mr Mulcahy