At 8 weeks old I was diagnosed with Nystagmus and Cone Dystrophy, from that moment my parents knew things would be tough for their little girl. At school I struggled, the support I needed to achieve the same as my peers was not really there; some teachers tried to help however the majority didn’t even care.
In 2004 I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime and was asked to join the GB Disabled Rowing Team simply because I was tall and visually impaired… I couldn’t imagine back then that I would become a London 2012 Paralympic Champion.
During my career, I learnt that much of what drives me to achieve is that need to prove that I can, to prove wrong the teachers/peers that said I would never achieve. So when I retired in 2013 I wanted to use this determination and resilience to complete another kind of challenge.
When in the GB team I always completed in a crew boat and was very rarely on my own… so when I retired in 2013 I decided to row the 165miles of the Navigable Thames, from Lechlade to Gravesend but in a Single Scull, not just for blisters and a sore bum, though; it was for a Guinness World Record, to raise money for IN-vision and, most importantly, just because I CAN! I competed the distance last month in 48hours 59minutes 54seconds.
I am Patron for IN-vision who further research into and raise awareness of Infantile Nystagmus.
I did Pilates as part of my training in the GB squad but I am looking at starting Yoga now… Watersports though are where my heart is.
Helping people realize their potential and clean bed sheets.
The inability to recognize that others are allowed an opinion.
2016 because I challenged myself to do something really remarkable and then achieved it… The Great Thames Row.
I truly cannot think of one, I guess my school years 1995-1999 were probably the toughest, bullies, teachers who just didn’t get it and being told I wouldn’t achieve much.
London 2012 Paralympic Final, most challenging but in many ways the BEST.
Knowing that I and only I had rowed 165miles from Lechlade to Gravesend.
Inability to say ‘NO’ and therefore taking on too much.
Greek salad with tuna and a bottle of fizzy water (If you mean the last one I had) My other half Tom’s, slow roast Madras Shoulder of Lamb with fluffy white rice and an ice cold Leffe (if you mean what my last meal on this earth would be).
Harry Potter… any of them.
The Green Mile.
That the education system focused more on helping young people understand and maximise their strengths, the things they don’t get graded on like resilience, confidant, and communication.
Celebrate what you can do rather than dwell on what you can’t.
See the opportunity in every challenge, ask questions and never limit yourself.
That wearing the clothes made me feel confident and relaxed.
My beautiful friend Liz Charter, the founder of IN-vision charity.
Katie-George Dunlevy, we started rowing together in 2004 and I always admired her for her natural ability and her mental strength. She changed sports in 2010 and has just come back from Rio with Gold and Silver medals… she was representing Ireland in Para-Cycling.
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