The trials and tribulations of a Paralympic hopeful – Part One

 

 

alarms4:45am: (Beep, Beep, Beep…) The never-ending, dreaded sound of the alarm in the morning. Except it doesn’t feel like morning when it’s pitch black, and trust me, this was no ordinary day. Today was my first ever paralympic trial, and I had no idea what to expect. Not a Scooby.

I applied for the Paralympic Talent Scheme back in September, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, watching Team GB earn their highest medal haul in history and thought to myself, ‘why not?’ thinking nothing of it at the time. Yet, three weeks later, not one, but three emails confirming my place for the trials made their way into my inbox if I wanted it them, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to turn down that kind of experience.

para-athletics-trackHowever, when I signed up, I was expecting a regional event somewhere fairly local where I’d get to try out a few different sports, meet a few people who may actually make it to Tokyo in 2020 for the GB Squad and I could finally put my sports journalism skills to good use. No. Couldn’t be more wrong if I tried. Instead, I’d be given a 10-12pm session slot half way up the country in Manchester – ridiculously early start it is then…

Whilst I may have been the one getting all hot and sweaty with the gruelling drills, I managed to avoid the four-hour drive each way (thankfully, because I would have fallen asleep at the wheel more times than Garfield says he hates Mondays): That job fell to my fabulously supportive boyfriend – I wouldn’t have been capable of doing half of what I did today without him… or allowing me to kip in the car.

adam-hillsI had no idea what I was walking into or how to react when I arrived at the Etihad Stadium today. I met and spoke to The Last Leg’s Adam Hills (famous for his Paralympic coverage) last weekend, and asked him what to do when being in a room full of ‘disabled’ people. He came back with the best response: “Everyone you’ll meet will be in exactly the same situation as you – no-one knows how to react cause you don’t really round up disabled people often! I had no clue what to do the first time, just be yourself and enjoy the experience.”

He couldn’t have been more right. Most of us were completely new to trials and had been inspired by Team GB; it didn’t matter what we did today, the main aim was to get the most out of the experience and meet people with similar disabilities.

It’s probably time for a bit of context. I am a mild right hemiplegic suffering with Cerebral Palsy. I say suffering – it’s not remotely obvious to the naked eye and I don’t class myself as disabled (I can do pretty much everything… except do buttons up with my right hand…) because I had so much physiotherapy as a baby. But I was unbelievably lucky, I was caught at six weeks old. Most people with CP -including many that I met today – weren’t diagnosed until 18 months, even later. para-athletics-smiles

So I turned my hand to sport, mainly gymnastics, from six months old as a form of physiotherapy to keep my muscles active. Turns out, I may have stood out in the crowd in the warm up alone at the Athletics trials today because of it – my flexibility (which I thought was non-existent) resulted in one of the GB coaches calling over the Head of Paralympic Scouts to watch me lift my leg higher than they had ever seen before whilst sitting in a particularly awkward position on the floor. I’m sure it was a sight to behold… and most certainly something I’m glad I don’t have photographic evidence of!

My first area in Athletics was jumping (mainly long jump for the day) and as it happens, I’m not too shabby at it. As a cheerleader, my jumps are the only thing I can do and do well (tumbles are a no-go with a back like Quasimodo, stunting – not a chance, and I’m more of a show-off than Beyoncé when it comes to the Dance section), and apparently impressed the GB jump coach – I believe his exact words were, “You clearly have a natural talent and ability for long jump. Have you got springs in those trainers?!” Not bad for a person who has no ligaments left in her ankles and rolls both of them on average about five times a week.

para-athletics-talkingOur group of seven were starting to interact a lot more by the time we made it to rotation 2 – sprinting. Of course, I’m not one to keep quiet for very long and ended up talking more than Lorelai in Gilmore Girls, but it was the first time I’d ever had a full-blown conversation with people with CP and I couldn’t help myself; my inquisitive nature kicked in. Or another way to put it – I’m nosy.

I’ve never really been one for running; between the gammy ankles and a distinct lack of stamina, I wasn’t really expecting miracles, but I thought I’d have a crack at it. Maybe sprinting would be better because it’s a shorter distance? Wrong again. Admittedly, it was only 40 metres for the coaches to get an idea of our speed. I’ll give you a hint, I wasn’t about to beat Usain Bolt in a race anytime soon, but there may be a glimmer of hope if I put a pair of roller blades on instead!

para-athletics-action-shotThe throwing events aren’t exactly my cup of tea either. I’m more akin to doing the splits on a crate of fire rather than managing to do anything more than a pansy throw. Still, it was all part of the experience, which I wouldn’t have changed for the world. I’m not expecting anything out of the trial, for me it’s just another story to tell and possibly a chance get some journalism work out of it; a callback for phase two would just be the icing on the cake.

But I’m not done yet. One trial down. two to go. Track Cycling should be interesting considering I struggle immensely with cornering on a bike, let alone balance, and Triathlon may be the death of me, but I promise to write about it before collapsing in a heap.

Three Paralympic Trials, five weeks – what could possibly go wrong?!

The Life and Times of a Technophobe

As many of you may be aware, I’m certainly not a technical goddess as much as I may try. So I wrote this article for work, showing to the other technophobes of the world that it is okay to not always get it right! Feel free to laugh, share, and comment your thoughts if you struggle with the same issues!

It’s always a nerve-wracking experience when you walk into a new job, especially when stepping into the jaws of an office full of women who will instantly judge you as a person just by what you’re wearing on your first day, and then proceed to tell everyone else who hasn’t met you yet about their perceptions of the ‘newbie’. Admittedly, not every office falls into this category (thankfully), but first impressions are the main concern  for someone who’s about to start a new career with a job title they can’t even define!

The first few hours and days in your new environment, you begin to understand how Bambi felt when tentatively stepping onto ice for the first time; you’re being dragged in so many different directions trying to keep up with the flow of the office and end up face-planting the 20-year-old, rarely-hoovered carpet. Perfect. But between attempting to memorise where every piece of stationery is carefully hidden and explaining to your boss for the fifth time, “I’m okay, I don’t need another plaster, the bleeding has stopped now,” you’ve yet to warn anyone your biggest phobia – technology.

You’re like the man in the Skittles advert who touches things and objects magically disappear when it comes to anything remotely technical. It’s the kiss of death – if you come into contact with electrical equipment and it doesn’t break, shut down or catch fire, it’s been a good day! However, explaining this fear to a colleague (or god forbid, someone in HR) sends shivers down your spine, especially after applying for an admin job and subtly misleading your employers on your CV saying you’re ‘competent in Microsoft Office.’ Surely it’s not lying, just bending the truth ever so slightly?

And it certainly isn’t helped being constantly surrounded by machines almost the same size as you, and hundreds of thousands of black cables knotted together that would even give someone from MENSA a headache to unravel, knowing that if you tugged or tripped on just one of these death traps, the whole building could be sent into an unwelcomed blackout for hours to come. It’s as if these robot-like automatrons are baiting you into making a mistake.

But you carry on attempting to understand the complexities of an Excel spreadsheet, and refuse to cave in to technical difficulties until you’ve exhausted all other possible options, including hitting the computer with the hammer you snuck into your desk drawer from your partner’s toolbox. Although, it gets to the point where you have no choice but to ring up someone from I.T support to help you find some important client documents you accidentally deleted from your boss’ file two days ago and haven’t yet been able to retrieve.

A few weeks pass, and you’re starting to settle into the normal 9-5 routine for the first time in years, so you decide to brave the printer and change the paper. But you got a little cocky, didn’t you? You inadvertently lean on one too many buttons and suddenly English isn’t the Canon’s first language anymore… It’s in German. Another trek with your head held down to Tech Support – you’re on a first name basis with almost all of the team, despite only calling for them in emergencies, and you’ve been there less than a month. That’s got to be a new record in the building.

However, you’re forgetting the bigger picture. Yes, you may not be the most technically-gifted person like the guys in the Apple Store, and you still might not fully grasp the concept of Microsoft Office despite numerous tutorials from almost every member of staff in the office, but you’re still here. The women who instantly judged you in those critical first seconds have now become drinking partners out of working hours, and the injuries sustained at work have dropped to just about an acceptable level for an overly-clumsy human being. But you’ve done it, you still have a job, despite setting the fire alarm off instead of turning the light switch off, forcing everyone in the building to frantically save their latest work and peg it outside knowing a practice drill wasn’t announced in the last newsletter.

These colleagues have taken you under their wing and haven’t kicked you out yet; you must be doing SOMETHING right…

 

 

Local Athletics superstar adds gold to medal collection

Abigail Davies, studying at Southampton Solent University, has overcome a long battle with injury to become 60m South West champion for the first time in her career.

“I couldn’t walk at one point last year.” – Abi Davies

Abi Davies' gold medalThe victory on Sunday moves her up the rankings to 12th fastest in the UK in the under 23s category and just outside the top 100 in all age groups.

The 20-year-old, who was competing for Southampton Athletics Club, breezed through her semi-final in the Grand Prix Series in Cardiff. She left the rest of her heat trailing in her wake with a time of 7.94 seconds, beating her closest opponent by nearly half a second, to set up a hotly-contested battle with other semi-final winner, Yvette Westwood.

The final itself was a very strong line up, but Davies went into the race as narrow favourite over Yate and District’s Westwood for the title, despite fracturing one ankle and spraining the other just 12 months earlier.

Davies, originally from Bath, came through with flying colours, matching her time from the previous round, and pipping fierce rival, Westwood, to the line by just 0.02 of a second.

Abi Davies HPAThe third year Sports Journalism student admits that the recovery has been tough in the last year but being a part of the High Performance Academy at Solent has encouraged her to come back stronger: “The rehab process took a year because I heavily damaged my ankle, so much so that I couldn’t walk at one point.

“But HPA and Solent have been amazing, helping me every step of the way to get back to doing what I love best and winning medals.”

This title joins her other sporting accolades, such as Midland Champion and Welsh Champion at 60m, as well as Captain of the Solent Athletics Team.

The multi-talented athlete also competes in Bobsleigh, and her overwhelming speed on the track has catapulted her into the Team GB squad hoping to make it to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

Snipers Cheerleading Academy smash their first ever competition

Snipers full comp squad

The Senior Cheer team before going on stage

DESPITE being formed just seven months ago, Snipers Cheerleading Academy placed all seven of their routines in the top three at the Autumn Allstar competition in Eastbourne last weekend.

The squad, based in Hounsdown, topped the standings in four different categories, coming first in all three pairs dance routines, as well as in the highest level senior stunt team in the entire competition.

In addition to the first placed trophies, Snipers also came home with a 2nd and 3rd in the open and junior level 2 stunt teams respectively, but it was the Senior Cheer routine that was the most pleasing result of the weekend for the club.

This was the first and only chance for the full squad to show their potential before Nationals in March. With only one fall in the two and a half minute routine, the 18-man squad produced a stunning performance, taking 2nd out of eight teams, and just 0.75 away from category favourites, Vista Twisters in first.

Sam Youren - Head Coach

Sam works alongside a committee to run the club

Snipers Head Coach, Sam Youren, believes her squad have achieved everything and more from their goals they set for their first competition, but wants to push the team further for Nationals. “I am completely overwhelmed by the results this weekend.

“For a brand new squad, we have exceeded every other teams’ expectations of us, and even though we had brilliant results, there are still a lot of things we need to work on for March. Nationals will be a bigger competition and we can’t become complacent, just because of what we have already achieved.”

Dance Captain Eva Newton + pair routines winners

Dance Coach Eva Newton with Junior Pair winners, Amy and Chloe

It is not just the Head Coach who is looking to improve the squad. Dance Coach, Eva Newton, who choreographed the senior cheer routine, as well as the three winning pair routines, says: “There were some mistakes and need to work on tighter arm lines throughout the dance sections, but all the hard work paid off.

“Now we have competed for the first time, we now understand what the judges like and don’t like so I know what to work on for the next event, but our team is a family. I am so proud of them.”

And this is not the first time the club has been noticed in the local community. In September, Snipers Cheerleading were recognised in a national competition run by Miller Homes, and won a £500 grant to put towards new training facilities.

Miller Homes - Snipers Cheerleaders-019

Miller Homes came down to Hounsdown and got involved with the stunting!

They have all ages and abilities within the squad, as well as boys and girls, and welcome beginners and ex cheerleaders/gymnasts for training sessions. For more information about training times or queries on starting with the club, contact Sam on samyouren@yahoo.co.uk

Five goal thrashing from AFC Totton moves them out of relegation danger

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The Stags applauding the travelling away fans after the match

AFC Totton scored five goals on Saturday against a struggling Bridgwater side to win their first away game of the season, and take their first step away from relegation.

The Stags have conceded in the first 20 minutes in each of their last five games, but they had a dream start, when injury-free Mike Gosney was brought down in the box with just 13 seconds on the clock. Gosney got up to dispatch the penalty comfortably to give Totton an early lead.

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Gosney winning one of Totton’s countless corners against Bridgwater

The away side came close to doubling their lead in the first ten minutes, with Gosney’s strike hitting the woodwork and the rebound was headed just wide by Nathaniel Sherborne. But it wasn’t until the 23rd minute that Totton found the back of the net again.

A Bridgwater corner was clearly efficiently by the Stags’ defenders and created a strong counter-attack to find Craig Feeney running down the left wing. His solo effort flew straight past the Bridgwater goalkeeper and into the top right hand corner to boost the team’s confidence further.

The Hampshire side dominated the first 45 minutes, but the scoring wasn’t quite finished before the half time whistle was blown. Feeney showed his strength on the corner of the penalty box to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper again slid it past for a three goal advantage.

Totton goalkeeper, Steve Mowthorpe, didn’t have too much to do in the first half, but produced a brilliant one-handed save in the second half to keep a clean sheet for the first time this season.

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One of Totton’s headed chances going just wide.

Totton’s confidence was growing at the thought of winning back-to-back games in the league. After a string of corners, Jake Burgess found Jack Simpson’s head to guide the ball across the line, giving Simpson two goals in two games.

Bridgwater did have their opportunities despite being four goals down, especially when Mowthorpe brought down Bridgwater’s number 9 in the box, but Josh Wadham couldn’t convert, curling the shot round the post, adding to their dismal day.

Another corner resulted in the Stags’ final goal of the game. This time, Sherborne took the plaudits, heading the ball past the inconsolable goalkeeper and giving Totton their biggest away win since February 2011; once again, Sherborne scored in that game as well.

Steve-Hollick

Manager Steve Hollick believes his team had a slow start to the season but are now proving their worth

Totton manager, Steve Hollick, was overly pleased with the result, but is staying grounded: “It takes the pressure off a bit, but it could have been double figures. We missed some good chances on top of those we scored.

“We’re not getting carried away, but it was a good performance from us and there’s still plenty more to come from the boys.”

Cinderford Town are Totton’s next league opponents, and will provide a sterner test away from home once more, but the signs are showing that the Stags are on the rise, climbing to 17th in the table.

It’s my anniversary!

untitled (17)For most people, today is just another crappy Monday morning where they’re stuck at their desks until at least 5pm trying to catch up on the weekend’s work and deal with the mother of all hangovers from Saturday night. But for me, it’s a little different. For me, today’s an anniversary. Of sorts…

Six months ago today, I was surrounded by sick people, doctors still trying to wake up and a ward-full of elderly women’s asses on show. Yes, I was stuck in a hospital bed. I think I would have preferred gauging my eyes out with forks than being there (and after some of the sights I saw, that actually became a viable option!).

1233978_10205143372366231_5360710867537749568_nBut it was for a good cause; I wasn’t just there because I was bored and had escaped from the Priory. That gloomy Tuesday in November was the day I would finally get my shoulder fixed after three and a half years of constant agony. Admittedly, I thought the pain would dissipate straight away, maybe a week or two of no driving?

How wrong was I?!

It became pretty obvious I had set the bar way higher than I should have done, but I was about to be brought back down to earth faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 metres. My estimations were a little out – the pain wouldn’t disappear for a good eight weeks, I wouldn’t drive for nearly three months (well, I may have attempted to a little before that date, but the doctors don’t need to know that) and wouldn’t be able to do strenuous fitness for a whole year.

Well this post is to show that these dates are just guidelines. I’m aware that my shoulder will still keep improving until November and I will only get stronger from here on in, but I am finally back doing what I love the most; cheerleading.

It may be 6 months earlier than the doctors predicted, and I’m still gently easing myself back into it – like the good little girl I have to be – but after over four years of pain and stressing of making the reoccurring injury worse, I can actually relax and enjoy my passion again. I have to tell you, it’s the best feeling in the world.

imagesWNHZV8A7And to top It all off, Saturday was the first time in about two years that I was able to tumble properly. I’m fully aware I’m nowhere near being able to call myself a gymnast, I’m not sure I was ever able to call myself that, and I’m certain a sprung floor was working wonders, but I was doing handsprings and pushing off my shoulder without it even hurting. I’m back!!

Despite these last few months probably being the toughest of my life and feeling so degraded the whole time, (the worst by far was not being able to wash my hair without assistance, and the physical impossibility of cutting up food. I felt like a two year old) untitled (12)there is light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s the main message in this – if there’s anyone reading this post and is going through something similar, it will get better. Your confidence may get shattered, but the people around you will help to build it up again, until you hit that stage where you’re smiling more than you were before the pain. Those long days of agony, popping pills like they’re candy and not being able to sleep on one side will improve. There is hope!

Just keep smiling through the pain until you’re just smiling. Honestly, it is worth al the suffering.

Chapter Two – Sleep must be the best medicine

untitled (12)Honestly? There’s not much to remember after the operation; it became pretty clear that I was buzzing off my tits thanks to codeine and morphine (among other things), and my whole life revolved around having my eyes closed and napping. Apart from the prescription drugs, I was acting like a baby – sleeping for most of the day and couldn’t stand up on my own.

I don’t know who this whole situation has affected more;

imagesNYRRDBSK* Me – who no longer has any freedom for social interaction and is constantly popping pills to avoid any excruciating pain

* My boyfriend – who has become a permanent Taxi for the next three months (whether he knows that or not) OR…

* My mum who blames me for having to change her nocturnal work hours to daytime In order to make proper meals for me!

Between the pair of them, I was starting to feel as if they were my carers and looking after me in case I set the house on fire, or if I decide to go a little crazy with a pair of scissors and cut my hair off. Sweet that they are keeping an eye on me, but also a little nutty…

imagesUJBOF07IAlthough to be fair, the early-onset Alzheimers felt as though it was kicking in. Sleeping 16 hours out of 24 was beginning to screw with my mind and my short term memories. Probably doesn’t help when mum starts every other sentence with “do you know where…?” or “do you remember the time when…?”

On the plus side, this week was the perfect opportunity to catch up on 7 weeks’ worth of sleep, thanks to 9am starts every day at university. I’m more than happy to admit, I’m not missing hearing the alarm going off at 6.30, and then subsequently chucking it against the wall to get it to shut up.

Truthfully, it’s been a long week. Not for me though, (it’s not as if I can remember most of it!) for the people stuck with lugging my bags around and having to chop up my food small enough for a toddler to shove it up their nose.

Overall, my shoulder doesn’t seem to be doing too badly. Unless I sleep on it. Or take it out of the sling. Or move it in general. Clearly my social life is going to be non-existent for a while…

Chapter One – There’s nothing like a cosy hospital gown

Fresh Prince“Well this is a story all about how, my life got flipped, turned upside down” – The Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, explains this adventure perfectly!

So I’m a little late in writing this stupid story, but apparently I’ve been told it needs to be documented. Welcome to the most injury-prone person and her story about recovering!

10441024_10205130183636521_7271573235238543644_nAs some of you will know, I’m a cheerleader: (well, ex/retired cheerleader now… Had to hang up my cheer shoes and poms for good after this joyous exploit) actually, that’s partly how I ended up here!

Quick background for why I’m having shoulder surgery – about 3 years ago, whilst warming up at a competition, someone fell in a stunt from more than twice my height. She landed on my nose, then both of us landed on my shoulder. That’s about it.

images (11)Ended up competing twice before being sent to Manchester A&E with concussion and a broken nose. Overall, a pretty standard day… Since then though, rounds of physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, all the ‘therapies’ basically (even the Electro shock treatment was fun) led me back round in circles.

In hindsight, working on a checkout probably didn’t do me any favours when it came to Repetitive Strain Injury, especially now I know I tore all the cartilage in my left shoulder. I realise now that possibly wasn’t my best move.

So it was pretty surreal to get a phone call whilst sat in a KFC in Eastbourne (so us cheerleaders don’t always keep to a ‘healthy’ diet) on the Friday of a competition weekend, to come into hospital just 5 days later!

Stuck in Southampton General Hospital on a freezing cold Tuesday morning in November wasn’t exactly part of the plan. Neither was having to wear the most ill-fitting, tasteless and thinnest hospital gown known to man. The only place those gowns belong is in a fire because no-one would willingly want their ass on show to a ward full of people they’ve never met before.

imagesBV2J115RAnd yet, that’s where I found myself – the youngest person on the ward by about 30 years and surrounded by women wanting to tell me their whole life story. I could have been at university writing sports stories and videoing events, but no, I was in my own personal hell; the hospital version of Loose Women.

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Post surgery selfie with the monkey mum bought!

The only joy was going down to the operating theatre and being knocked out by the anaesthetic! At least I had a bit of peace and quiet for a couple of hours. But of course, my dearest mother was by my side on the ward, so I sent her away to do the one thing that would take her mind off the operation – Christmas shopping. She’s like a machine!

Coming round after the surgery was hilarious – for the rest of the day, my whole arm was a dead weight. They’d given me a nerve blocker and couldn’t even hold anything in my hand. Turned out to be a bit of a problem going to the toilet though.

Despite being told I’d be in overnight, just 8 hours into my stay, I was happily discharged and flying as high as a kite on medication! This was clearly just the beginning of my recovery, I had no idea what was coming.

Honestly, I don’t think I prepared myself for it very well!