Meet the clinical analyst who swaps her lab for the wrestling ring at night
Published 25/01/2016 | 09:03
A clinical analyst has been swapping her laboratory for the wrestling ring in the hope of becoming Northern Ireland's first female professional grappler.
By day, Lauren Cruickshank spends her time analysing samples in a pharmaceutical laboratory.
But in the evenings she becomes Lauren La Roux, hitting the canvas and causing a stir with a range of daring body-slamming moves.
"I've watched wrestling since I was a kid - I've always loved it," she said.
Lauren, from Coalisland in Co Tyrone, has undertaken a punishing training schedule as she chases her dream of turning pro.
She wants to follow in the footsteps of Becky Lynch, an Irish professional wrestler signed to WWE.
The 26-year-old is the only active female wrestler in Northern Ireland and is on the books of Pro Wrestling Ulster, where she trains up to four nights a week.
Lauren, who works as a clinical analyst at a Newry-based laboratory, explained how she took up wrestling after attending a show in Belfast.
"In November 2013 my boyfriend and I had gone to a wrestling show and during the break they said there was a training school available," she said.
"Anyone could sign up just by sending off an email. We decided we'd do it together, as we both have an interest in wrestling.
"We started in February 2014 and have been going ever since."
As well as up to four training sessions a week, Lauren hits the gym regularly and works with a personal trainer.
"You need to be constantly training," she added.
"Some days I take off because you have to give your body a rest, but I train as often as I can.
"It isn't just wrestling training. You have to go to the gym to build your strength up, in order to be safe when you're wrestling.
"You need to be confident in your own strength to be able to perform a move and be safe while doing so.
"I train in Belfast and have to travel there. I'm out of work at 5.30pm, I go home and then head straight to training."
Diet is also crucial, and she has to follow a careful programme.
"That is something I'm really trying to watch," Lauren added.
"It is really hard because I absolutely love food. I haven't eaten chocolate for over two weeks.
"There is a lot of hard work, but when you hear the reaction from a crowd it makes it all worthwhile."
A physically demanding combat activity, wrestling involves grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns.
Participants perform a series of bone-crunching moves, including chokeslams, neckbreakers and powerslams.
As the names suggest, it can be dangerous without proper training.
"I've taken a couple of bad bumps - I've knocked my nose and things like that, but fortunately nothing too bad," added Lauren.
"That is why you do so much training outside the ring, to try and build your strength."
Lauren's first taste of competitive action came in Dublin in October 2014.
She now competes regularly in events organised by Pro Wrestling Ulster, Northern Ireland's only professional training academy.
Wrestling is traditionally a male-dominated activity, and Lauren is the first female to come through PWU's training school.
"I am the only female from Northern Ireland at my training school on the roster," she added.
"We have another girl who is in training with us. She has just finished her eight-week training course, so hopefully in time she will be on the roster as well.
"If we are planning a show and want other girls, we are booking them in from Scotland, Wales and further afield."
Lauren has been delighted by the reaction from fans and fellow competitors.
"They want to raise the profile of women's wrestling. They are investing a lot of time and effort in it, and with me personally," she added.
"Wrestling is a lot tougher on a female, and the guys respect that and have been so supportive."
In 2014, Becky Lynch became the first Irish woman to be signed to WWE as a professional wrestler.
The Dubliner, whose real name is Rebecca Quinn, signed a three year development deal.
Lauren said signing professionally is the goal of every wrestler, and has fixed her sights on following Becky into WWE.
"If anyone tells you different, to me they are lying. It isn't just a hobby, it's a lifestyle," she added.
"There is a lot of effort and dedication needed, and I am not going to put that in unless I want to get somewhere."
She believes it is achievable, adding: "I do - 100%. If I didn't there would be no point at all in me doing wrestling."
The wrestling ring is far removed from the lab where Lauren spends her working week.
She admits there is a mixed reaction when she tells people about her double life.
"I don't think some of them were all that surprised, because they think I'm a wee bit nuts anyway," she continued.
"They know I've always had that interest and whenever I told them I was doing it they were totally in awe.
"People tend to be a bit shocked at first, but when you tell them more about it they are very supportive and encouraging.
"The reaction you get from a crowd is really brilliant. To know you've pulled off a good match feels incredible."