It may sound odd for a Paralympian, but I wasn’t particularly sporty growing up. I rarely got to participate in sports when I was at school, so my journey to becoming a Paralympian didn’t start until I was thirteen years old.
After trying wheelchair basketball at the National Junior Games I found I quite enjoyed it, but I was still unsure about joining a club. It was only when my friend Sarah said that she was going to join that I decided I would too – we ended up playing at the Paralympics together – but without her I might never have gone along in the first place. Really, I started playing because it’s what my friends were doing and it was a nice way to socialise, but it didn’t take long to discover that I was very competitive.
After I started playing for a club in 1999 things moved quickly. Four years later I played for GB for the first time at the 2003 Europeans. It’s a bit of a blur, but what I do remember is the coach calling a time out, putting me on, and telling me where to position myself to take a shot. I did, and it went in, so that wasn’t a bad start!
When we qualified for the Athens Paralympics I wasn’t selected – that was a real turning point for me. I’d had a taste of life on the international stage and I liked it. I realised that I had to do more, and I started to put in a lot more work. From 2005 – 2014 I never missed a major tournament again. I’ve competed at two Paralympics, two World Championships and six European Championships.
Beijing was my first Paralympic games. The experience was amazing, and we came 8th which was a positive showing for a developing team. The biggest struggle for me was actually the local cuisine, which I wasn’t keen on at all – luckily there were plenty of English options in the food hall, so that saved me!
My next Paralympics was the one that I never get bored of talking about – London 2012. To be at a home Paralympic games was truly the most incredible experience. The atmosphere, the crowd, all of it was amazing. I’m not sure if the crowd were experts on the rules – but every time we got the ball they would cheer and that was good enough for us. Playing in front of over 9,000 people: nothing can compare to that. The only frustration is that having been level at half-time with eventual Gold medallists Germany in the quarter finals, we ended up losing. We really wanted to go further with the home crowd behind us.
I took 2015 off to recover from an illness so just missed out on selection for Rio. But I didn’t feel like I was done with sport and wanted a new challenge. I’ve always been strong, so I thought I would give powerlifting a try. I went for a trial day and they were really impressed with my base level, and after my bench press went from 77 to 96 in a few months I realise I might be onto something.
It feels like the beginning of a new journey for me. The sponsorship from Path to Success has come at the perfect time, so now it’s time to challenge myself to push ahead on the Path to Tokyo.