I was born with a disability which affects my left leg. Put simply; I have far too many veins in my leg, causing it to swell and hurt constantly. Growing up with a disability is hard; I was always very insecure and shy about my leg, being different can be tough at the best of times.
I began to realise my disability when I was around 8 years old, being picked last for the football team in the playground was starting to become more regular occurrence. Sport was always something that highlighted my differences and so something I tried to avoid. Although my school was always very supportive and helped me to get as involved as possible. It was very hard for me to keep up with able-bodied students which made it almost impossible for me to take part on a competitive level. When I was about 9 years old it got worse and I started using forearm crutches and I’ve been on crutches ever since I'm 24 now. In the past two years, I have begun to come to terms with my disability much more after making the decision not to amputate and just live with my condition. The prospect of having a disability for the rest of my life was frightening, however after so many years of uncertainty, finally acknowledging the fact that: I’m going to be stuck with it was strangely liberating. It allowed me to begin to accept it and peruse other avenues such as becoming an adaptive athlete.
Getting more into my fitness and sport I wanted to test the limits of what my body was capable of, this began with going to the gym, running on my crutches, I soon decided to put my fitness to the test and began taking part in obstacle course races, between 5-15km.
Fast forward to earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be trackside at the London 2017 International Para-athletic championships. After Stef Reid ( a para athletic long jumper) won Gold for GB I was set to interview her. I asked her what advice she had for young adaptive athletes such as myself. To which she replied, “What's your sport”? I was surprised that this question caught me off guard as I liked to think of myself as an athlete, I think it was because I realised in that moment that I was an athlete without a sport.
A couple of days later I began to look into Olympic sports, wheelchair fencing immediately stood out to me. The pristine white gear and elegance juxtaposed against the ferocity and speed of the athletes really got my pulse racing. I began training hard, I didn't want to take up a sport and simply do it on the weekend as a hobby. I want to throw myself into the world of fencing, push myself and see what I'm capable of.
Putting the ‘Dis’ in front of the ability always felt like I was somewhat less than other people. Wheelchair fencing has given me the opportunity to compete on an even playing field for the first time in my life. Not just taking part in a sport but excelling at it ( hopefully ), without being at a physical disadvantage from the get-go. Being exposed to this new world has taught me so much about myself, working hard, grinding at something, actions and repercussions. The opportunity to win or lose, and the intensity of going head to head with someone. I think that wheelchair fencing has shown me what I'm capable of, and reinforced my belief that I am not my disability, and I will not let it define me.