How did you get into sport?
After losing my left hand in an accident when I was 2 years old, my parents were keen for me to learn to swim to help build my strength, confidence and safety in the water. At the age of 10 I was introduced to disability competitions where I realised I was quite good at swimming for someone with one hand. That very quickly developed into competing all over the country at national competitions and by the age of 13 I was selected to be a part of the British swimming programme. I went on to represent Great Britain for 10 years, competing at the highest level.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame?
Firstly, when I went to swimming lessons at 4 years old I discovered I had a real fear of deep water and was afraid to even get in the pool. It took a lot of determination and resilience but eventually I overcame my fears. More recently, my swimming career unfortunately came to a premature end when illness prevented me from competing at the London 2012 Paralympic games. This prompted me to look into new career options and broaden my horizons on what I wanted to do.
What are your three biggest achievements in sport?
- Competing at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games
- Winning a Silver and Bronze medal and the 2009 World Championships
- Winning a relay Silver medal at my first major championships in 2006.
Who most inspired you and why?
My parents have been my biggest inspiration throughout my career as a swimmer and beyond. They provided me with all the support and encouragement to follow my dreams and more importantly have always been there to pick me up when things don’t go to plan.
From a sporting perspective I always remember watching Cathy Freeman at the Sydney 2000 Olympics Games as she defied the odds and critics to become Olympic champion. Proving that anything is possible regardless who you are and where you come from. (Plus I really liked her hooded racing cat suit!)
When and why did you get involved with the Athlete Mentor programme?
I always wanted to be a teacher, so the Athlete Mentor role seemed like the perfect fit to share my experiences as an elite athlete and work with young people to give them all the tools they need to be successful and reach their full potential.
What has been your favourite moment as a YST Athlete Mentor?
My role as an Athlete Mentor has provided me with so many highlights which is why I’ve been doing it for so long. The YST camps are always so rewarding but the Inclusive Futures camp that I led on a few years ago reduced me to tears. The young people arrived on the Friday very nervous and unsure about what they were doing. As the weekend unfolded they started to grow in confidence, build friendships and challenge themselves like never before. By Sunday the young people didn’t want to leave and some were very emotional about the journey they had been on and what they had achieved. I felt very lucky to be able to support the young people through such an impactful few days and see them grow in so many ways. I was very proud and emotional.