New Direction

Well it has been almost a year since my last post and despite having written a few blogs, they never quite made it to the website for many reasons!

Life has thrown a huge number of challenges at me since I returned from Italy in April and although it has been a difficult time I can’t help but feel that things are finally falling back into place. After retiring from international Wheelchair Basketball, I have felt that I needed a new challenge so I tried a few different sports. I spent a while training with the GB ParaCanoe team but unfortunately I was not the classification they had hoped so that was the end of that little adventure.

Then I stumbled upon Para-Powerlifting, now I’ve always been strong and I love the gym but I could not have imagined that my body would take the the sport in such a positive way. I’ve been training with a powerlifting focus since June and have gone from strength to strength and in my first competition this weekend I got myself a lovely gold medal, a clean 92kg lift and a hell of a lot of confidence. This is not a competitive weight in world competition but I have time and a lot of motivation to get to a place where I can compete in world class competition.

I’m still very much involved in Wheelchair Basketball and with London Titans and this season have found myself coaching not only 2nd Division but also the Premier Division team as well as playing a little in the 1st Division. So I have some challenges to overcome to ensure I have balance but my training focus has definitely changed.

I have been thinking about what I can do to make my website and blog more interesting and relevant to the changes that have happened in my world in the last couple of years so stay tuned as there will be some changes happening in the coming weeks.

Welcome to Italy

What a few months it has been since my last blog. I hardly feel I’ve had time to catch my breath but it has been awesome.

I went out to Rio to watch the Paralympics in September, which was brilliant. Although Brazil were getting a lot of criticism regarding the Olympics, I though they did a fantastic job of the Paralympics. The crowds were bigger than at the Olympics for some sports and the atmosphere was electric. We didn’t get to see much outside the basketball but we did make it to the first day of the Sprint Kayaking which was a great insight into how the competition works. It was GB’s most successful Paralympics since 1988 with a total of 147. Incredibly the 6 Sprint Kayak athletes earned Paralympics GB 3 gold & 2 bronze medals. The basketball was also very successful for GB with the men winning bronze and the women finishing 4th. It was 10 very fun days and I’m so glad I went.

When I got home I had just 48 hours before we before we left for Italy. As well as packing, I had a lot of socialising to do and my car needed a last minute check over before the long drive. I managed to squeeze in a roast with friends and dinner with family before leaving on the Tuesday morning.

The drive took 2 days and took us through France & Switzerland before arriving in Italy on the Wednesday evening. We had a bit of a nightmare on the Tuesday night because we found out the the Gothard Tunnel in Switzerland was closed so we had the option of using the Gothard Pass instead but this added over an hour to our journey time, so we decided to find a hotel but that was a lot easier said than done. We ended up staying in a fantastic hotel in the Swiss Alps, it was just a shame we couldn’t stay longer and we had to get back on the road.

It’s hard to believe that was over 6 weeks ago!

Since then I’ve been training hard with my new team Santo Stefano and we’ve had our first 3 matches of the season.

Just over 3 weeks ago we played against Santa Lucia who are based in Rome. I’ve actually played at their venue before when I was in the Aces team that made The Champions Cup. We had a good match (although we started slowly) and got a convincing win in the end, 70- 40. I obviously took the opportunity whilst over that side of the country to do the Rome tourist thing with the boyfriend on the Sunday, considering it was October it was incredibly warm and incredibly busy but great to be a tourist for the day.

The week after that, we played the Italian champions CantĂą in a packed venue just north of Milan. This match didn’t quite go to plan and we lost 40-80, although I don’t think the score is representative of our team and what we can achieve. Let’s just put it down to teething problems as we are still getting to know each other and how to work effectively with one another!

This weekend we played our first home match against Porto Torres and although we gave them a good game for the first half, the second half didn’t go our way at all and the final score was 52-70.

Personally I’ve not played a huge amount in the matches so far but I’m still working to get my fitness and my on court speed back. I’m hoping that by the new year I’ll be back where I need to be to be more effective on court and earn some more court time. I feel that being in an environment where I’m enjoying training and playing is allowing me to get back into the shape I want to be in.

Next weekend we play against Padova which will be another long journey to the north of Italy but then we have the following weekend off so I’m travelling back to the UK for one week only. Lots to look forward to.

Anyway Ciao for now 🙂

What’s Next?

Well it has been a long time since my last blog, which although it wasn’t intentional, it was time that I needed to adjust.

Since November I have been on an incredible rollercoaster of emotions. I tried to return to the basketball team for Rio but my health was still not allowing me to reach the standard needed to consistently perform against the very best women’s players in the country. And despite performing well at selection camp, I was not chosen for the 12 for the Paralympics or the reserves.

To say I was devastated is an understatement and it has taken me a couple of months to make my peace with the situation. But my health has to be the priority and despite still not quite being 100%, I am working with some incredible people to get me back to my best. Therefore I feel it is the right time for me to announce my retirement from the GB Wheelchair Basketball program. Without wanting to distract from the team and their preparations for Rio, I need this information to be public to allow me to have full closure.

That said I will be going out to Rio as a spectator and I’m looking forward to seeing a Paralympics from a completely different angle.

So what is next for me? Well I’ve accepted a playing contract at Santo Stefano in Italy. As daunting as the prospect of moving to a foreign country is, I’m really looking forward to a completely different way of life and a different kind of challenge.

Beyond that I’m unsure but I’ve been trying my hand at a bit of kayaking so you never know, there may be a Tokyo medal in kayaking with my name on it. You’ll have to watch this space 🙂

Ups and downs!

Having got into a pattern of training in Worcester and slowly increasing my training load, this month it has been very much disrupted for many reasons.

The first disruption was a training camp held in the school half term holidays. Due to my recent return to training and not having met the criteria set, my name was not on the invite list for this camp. But not wanting to let this change my forward momentum I decided to use the opportunity to get some really high level training in with the Titans Premier Team, which I really enjoyed.

After this the performance group (the Europeans squad) took a trip to The Netherlands to play a series of friendlies against the Dutch. Unfortunately, this left the remaining players without a coach. My plan was to continue to train with Titans and do a few sessions on my own while the team was away but a couple of incidents at training and a match resulted in me needing to take a few days to let my body recover.

This week has been our off week, which means anything but taking a week off training…normally! I was planning on doing a few, high intensity training sessions – quality not quantity – but that plan was also scuppered when I decided to get ill on Sunday. So all in all, it has been a challenging few weeks.

In the league, my 2nd division team have had a few more matches and currently have a 3-2 win-loss ratio. 1st division have played 2 more matches and although we were missing 4 of our 7 named players for the last match against Cardiff Celts, the team is still undefeated.

This weekend sees the start of the women’s league season in Nottingham. This year is going to be a difficult year for Titans Women due to losing a couple of key players for various reasons, but what I love about the team is the unrivalled desire, passion and team spirit. It really is a fantastic group of ladies and I’m looking forward to playing along side them again.

It’s free to come and watch so if you’re in the Nottingham area this weekend, come along and watch some high level women’s wheelchair basketball at The Jesse Boot Basketball Arena.

Basketball, basketball and more basketball

It’s true what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. The last 2 weeks have just flown by and I’ve enjoyed it…mostly!

Every Monday and Friday we’ve been doing timed sprints and I’m consistently beating my times. I’m so pleased as it means I’m no longer the slowest at training and it means I’m a little closer to getting back in the team. I’m enjoying seeing the improvements I’m making and I’m coping reasonably well with the work load, I’m just a couple of weeks away from being back to a full training week.

I have had a couple of issues with my shoulders since coming back to training but I’ve managed to find a couple of people to help keep me going. Back home in High Wycombe I’ve been lucky enough to discover Steve Lodge (stevelodge.com), an ex footballer turned physiotherapist. From just one session with Steve, I’m confident that he will be crucial in my route back into the team. In Worcester I’ve returned to 206 Physiotherapy, who help out with the GB program from time to time and who have been keeping me going in between sessions with Steve.

Since my last blog the league season has started. I’ve played one match and coached 2 matches. Titans had 2 wins against CWBA in the 1st & 2nd divisions, in two very tough match. The 2nd division match went to overtime, which considering it was my coaching debut, I was pleased that I managed to keep myself and my team calm and take the win. The match I coached this weekend was against Swindon Shock, another tough match which unfortunately didn’t go our way. But lots to work on and I’m looking forward to getting my team together to go through some ideas I’ve had.

That’s all from me for now.

Let the hard work begin

Yesterday was my first day back in Worcester for the GB Women’s centralised program. We started at 7am with fitness testing which will be regularly assessed. It confirmed what I already knew, I’m very unfit and no way near as fast in my basketball chair as I was. But I like to see the positive and therefore the only way is up!

When I decided I wanted to come back to training in Worcester I had an ideal in my head that I would be fit and ready to throw myself back in to training. Unfortunately, although my health is a lot better than it was, I’ve been struggling with training and not getting ill afterwards. This is improving but it is just another challenge to overcome! To begin with I will be doing a reduced training load with the goal of being back in full training as soon as possible.

This coming weekend I have my first league match of the season and I will also be making my coaching debut for Titans 2nd division team away to Coventry. I’ve taken on coaching the 2nd div team as part of my grade 3 coaching course so as well as the coaching, I have a lot of paper work to complete as evidence for the course. Everyone loves paperwork…don’t they!!!

Not much else to report but going to make an effort to do my blog more regularly. Or at least that’s the plan!

Change of plan!

It has been a whole year since my last blog and as I mentioned at the end of the last blog I was planning to take some time out of training. Well that few month out turned into a year and even now I’m still trying to build my fitness back up in preparation for my return to the centralised program in Worcester at the end of the month. It’s been a tough year but I’m happy to say I’m finally feeling more human and as determined as ever to get back on the basketball court.

So what have I been up to in my year off I hear you ask! As well as resting and getting myself better, I’ve been making the most of my free time and spending it with friends and family, something I’m just not able to do when I’m training. I’ve also been developing myself as a wheelchair basketball coach, in May I did my Grade 2 coaching course and managed to get it signed off in time to begin my Grade 3 in August. So this season is going to be a busy one for me because as well as playing in the 1st division for London Titans, I will be coaching the 2nd division team as practical experience towards my Grade 3.

Also, despite not playing at the European Championships, I was there as a volunteer and ended up commentating on the live stream. Another thing to go on the CV especially as the women’s semi-finals and finals I commentated on was broadcasted on the BBC red button. It was a successful tournament for both the men’s and women’s teams securing their place at the Rio Paralympics and both teams on the medal podium, retaining their gold and bronze medals respectively.

In my year off I also took the opportunity to do a little travelling. I’ve been to Milan, Scotland, Malaga, Paris, Devon and the highlight of this summer, Cuba. Off the back of my trip to Cuba I’ve also started writing a travel blog which you can check out at https://accessibleworldtravel.wordpress.com

So the next challenge is getting fit and getting fit without becoming ill again as my immune system seems to have taken a bit of a hit. It’s going to be a long road but as I always say ‘if it was easy everyone would do it’!

Life After the World’s

Another 2 months have passed since my last blog and I really don’t know where the time has gone (I know I say that every time).

I’ve done loads of travelling since the World Championships in June. I’ve been to Shetland, Tenerife, Brazil and Milan. The highlight of which was an orientation trip to Brazil.

The intention of the trip was to trial a potential holding camp venue for Rio 2016 Paralympics in SĂŁo Paulo, as well as seeing the basketball venue in Rio De Janeiro. While we were there we took the opportunity to see Christ The Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and Copacabana Beach. We even made a special effort to get up very early to see a spectacular sunrise over the Copacabana which I’m very glad we did. I’m thinking of having this snap made into a canvas.

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When visiting the Paralympic venue, you can’t help but get excited for the events in 2 years time…in fact it’s just 716 days until the opening ceremony!

After our Brazilian adventure we were straight back into it with preparations for National Paralympic Day. We spent 3 days at the University of East London where we played the Dutch twice and then we travelled to the Copper Box for our showcase match against the Paralympic Bronze medalists. We put out a young squad and although we were poor in the first half of the match, we gave them an excellent 4th quarter and lost by just 4 points. Yet more evidence of the talent coming through in our squad, the future for the GB Women is very bright. If you missed it, you can watch the Channel 4 highlights program here or you can search on the 4OD app.

I’d love to tell you all that I’m back in training and I’m excited for the challenge of the year ahead but I’ve decided to take a little time out of training for now. I’ve been having health issues since March and made the decision to get myself well before I throw myself back into the full on training program in Worcester. My intentions haven’t changed, I’m still planning on training towards the European Championships which are being held in Worcester in 2015 and the Paralympics in 2016 but to be the best I can be on the basketball court, I need to look after myself 🙂

So doctors orders are rest and I have to say I’m awful at that! The new league season is getting under way and although I’m not going to be playing in any matches just yet, I’m hoping to go and watch GB Coyotes play on Sunday (3.30 tip at Woking College), as well as any other local matches I can get to. Hope to see you there.

Onwards and Upwards

It has been a week since we returned from Canada and it’s still sinking in that we achieved our best ever world ranking.

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I’m currently on my holidays so this blog will be short but I thought I would bring together all the match reports from the World Championships with my own short summary, so here you go:

Great Britain are first team to win at 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship!

An early start with the opening match of the tournament. Brazil took us to a very close match last time we played at the Paralympics in London but this time we made sure we didn’t let that happen. Although we stated a little nervous we managed to get a comfortable 56-37 win.

Great Britain put up strong defence against Paralympic Champions at the 2014 Women’s World Championship

This was the match where we wanted to show the progress we’d made as a team but unfortunately our shots just wouldn’t drop. Despite keeping the Paralympic gold medalists to just 55 points, our total of 33 was disappointing and not enough to to win at this level of competition.

Short-benched GB Team battle to victory over Japan at the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship

Having played Japan a couple of times at the recent Tri-Nations Cup at Worcester Arena, we knew that this was a team we could play well against. We were missing 2 players due to illness but this just showed the depth of the squad with other players stepping up and taking a lead role. We worked our way to a comfortable 62-48 win.

Great Britain secure Quarter Final spot at the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship!

Last time we played China, they got the W to take them to the 5th/6th playoff at the London Paralympics but this time it was us who got the all important win to secure our quarter final spot. It was a close match until we dominated in the 3rd quarter to take control of the match and eventually won 64-47.

Great Britain to face the USA in Quarter Finals of 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship

Another tough match where the lead changed hand many times but the win wasn’t to be ours on this occasion. Our defence wasn’t as strong as in previous matches and our execution offensively wasn’t there. That said, we finished the pool round in 3rd and this meant a cross over against the US. Final score Canada 59-52 GB.

Reigning World Champions battle to gritty Quarter Final victory over Great Britain

Once again our shooting let us down and although we were able to bring the margin back to single figures on a few occasions, the USA proved to be too strong for us and they advanced to the semi-finals with 53-41 win.

Great Britain on track to secure highest ever finish at Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship

Having played the French 5 times at a recent tournament, we knew that they could be dangerous if we allowed them to play offence. It took until the 4th quarter for GB to make our mark on the match but it saw us edge out a 17 point win, with the final score 58-41.

Great Britain defeat Paralympic silver medallists to secure best ever finish at the Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship

This was without a doubt our best match of the tournament and although the scores were tied at the end of 40 minutes, we made no mistake in overtime. We kept calm and edge to a 7 point win, scoring 77 points against a strong Australian squad.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who sent good luck messages during the tournament. The positivity we felt from everyone at home was incredible and really helped to boost the squad at difficult times. I’m hugely proud of what the squad has achieved in such a short space of time and I’m excited for the next 2 years building up to Rio, although I know it will be a lot of hard work.

Shut In & World Championships Prep

For those of you that follow me on Twitter you will know that the Tri Nations Tournament in April was a mixed bag for GB. We had 2 wins over Japan and 2 losses against Germany. The showcase match of the tournament was by far our best team performance even though we lost by 7 to Germany.

In May we entered ‘Shut In’ which was a time to get the whole squad together as much as possible. This is our main prep for the World’s and it has been hard work but hugely enjoyable.

This weekend was especially tough as we had league playoffs as well as early training every day. On the Saturday Titans women took on Vixens in a tense match and came out with the win. Sundays match was against Steelers where we didn’t perform and ended up losing by 20 points which meant we finished 3rd in the league. A disappointing end to a great season!

Now we’re in Germany playing a series of friendlies against Germany and USA. Next week we travel to France for more matches and 16th June sees us travel to Canada for the World Championships. I can’t believe how fast this year has gone! I doubt I will have a chance for another blog before the World’s but I hope you will follow the teams progress.

Huge thank you to everyone who came to Worcester to support us at the Tri Nations. If you’re craving some more Wheelchair Basketball action, the GB men take on Japan in the Continental Clash at Worcester Arena on 5th June. For more information go to www.gbwba.org.uk