Date of birth: 15 June 1977
Disability: Born without left forearm
Paratriathlon classification: PT4
Lives: Loughborough, Leicestershire
First race: Middlesex County Swimming Championships. I swam in the 4x25m freestyle relay for my club at the time Forward Hillingdon. I was aged 9.
First international competition: World Games for the Disabled in 1990 in Assen, The Netherlands.
First triathlon: St Albans sprint triathlon in 2006
Greatest achievement: Winning gold in a new world record in the S9 50m freestyle at the Paralympic Games in Barcelona 1992.
Toughest achievement: Reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro
Hobbies: Eating, travelling and trekking
Favourite food: Total Greek yoghurt, dark chocolate, banoffee pie
Favourite drink: Tea
Favourite music: Oasis, The Killers, Coldplay and anything upbeat and cheesy!
Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption
Personal motto: Nothing is impossible; there is always a way
What’s in your transition bag that you can’t live without: My prosthetic arm
Despite being born without my left forearm my parents were adamant that I would be able to do anything that any other child could do and not having my arm was never an excuse for anything. Whilst growing up there was lots of experiments about how to do even simple things like eating with a knife and fork but there was always a solution to everything I needed and wanted to do.
I know that it was being brought up with this attitude that contributed to me being the determined and competitive person that I am.
My first introduction to swimming was not the best. Neither my parents ever learned to swim and so the first time my Dad took me to a swimming lesson when I was 5 was the first time I had ever been to a swimming pool and I started crying my eyes out before I even got changed. I had absolutely no confidence in the water and wouldn’t lift my feet off the bottom or put my face under the water. Fortunately I had a very patient swimming instructor and a year later I was able to swim 25m unaided.
From there I progressed very quickly, joined a local swimming club and was soon training five times a week with and competing against able-bodied children at the Hillingdon Borough Swim Squad. I competed up to county level in able-bodied swimming and always considered myself to be a very average swimmer until I became involved in disability swimming.
In 1989, at the age of 12 I took part in my first British Disabled Swimming Championships and came away with gold medals, beating Paralympic medallists from the Seoul Paralympic Games the year before. A year later I was competing in my first international event, the World Games in Holland where I won a bronze medal in the S9 100m backstroke.
I continued to swim for Great Britain in all major championships between 1990 and 1996, with my greatest achievement being winning a gold medal in a world record time in the S9 50m freestyle at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona. I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and compete for my country but I could not have done it without the constant and unwavering support of my parents who were getting up at 5am every morning to take me training and travelling the country with me at weekends to competitions.
I retired from international swimming after the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta and went on to spend four years at the University of St Andrews in Scotland studying for my degree in English Language and Literature. I was involved in the University swim team and kept fit by running and going to the gym but did not train with any focus for several years.
After University I joined the business advisory firm, Deloitte LLP and studied for my Chartered Accountancy qualification. During this time I decided I needed a physical challenge to train for and so entered the 2001 London Marathon. I completed the marathon in a time of 4.27 and then promptly stopped running again. It wasn’t until 2005 that I decided to take up running again and competed in several half marathons and the Edinburgh Marathon in 2006.
At the end of 2005 a work colleague asked if I would be interested in doing the London triathlon with her in 2006. Being unable to resist a physical challenge I agreed. I hadn’t ridden a road bike for over ten years but was able to use my father’s old road bike which I had adapted for my disability. After thoroughly enjoying my first triathlon I entered a few Sprint races in 2007 and 2008 and also ran the New York City marathon in 2007.
After getting married in September 2008 and spending an amazing six weeks on honeymoon, driving down the West Coast of Canada and the US, I returned to the UK needing a new focus. Whilst surfing the internet I came across an article about Paratriathlon on the British Triathlon Federation (“BTF”) website which was announcing the members of a British Paratriathlon Development squad. I had missed the application to join the squad but investigated a bit more and discovered that the times I had been doing in the local triathlons were competitive with times recorded at the World Championships that year.
After spending a couple of months debating whether or not I was mentally ready and prepared to re-enter the world of elite disability sport I took the plunge and contacted the BTF about whether I would be allowed to compete in the 2009 European Championships based on times I provided from races the year before. I was, and with British and European Championships within the next three months I threw myself into training.
It isn’t easy juggling 10-12 hours training a week with a demanding fulltime job but I firmly believe that if you really want to do something you will be motivated enough to find a way. For the first time in nearly 13 years I was back to early morning training at 6am before work and again in the evenings. I have to say, it is much harder doing this as an adult as I don’t have my parents there to make my meals, do my washing, transport me to training whilst I sleep in the car. However, my husband, David, is incredibly supportive – I don’t know many people who would get up at 4am on a Sunday morning to stand in an often muddy, wet field to support his wife as she competes in a triathlon but David does. In the same way I couldn’t have swum to the level I did without my parent’s support, I couldn’t do paratriathlon now without David. I am a very, very lucky girl!
My first season in Paratriathlon could not have gone any better – I won both the British and European Championships. The World Championships in 2009 were held on the Gold Coast in Australia and I was very fortunate to receive financial support from Deloitte which enabled me to travel to Australia and compete in the World Championships. I returned from Australia as World Paratriathlon Champion. My achievements throughout the 2009 triathlon season were also recognised by the BTF as I was awarded the 2009 Corus British Triathlon Female Paratriathlete of the Year in November 2009.