Tokyo 2021

Well what a crazy few months since my last blog!

Last month I was celebrating a Gold medal at the Para-Powerlifting World Cup in Manchester and now we’re in the middle of a UK Lockdown due to a world pandemic!

It is a difficult time for everyone where we’re having to make big adjustments to our lives in the hope that we can reduce the spread of Covid-19. I hope you and your family are well and managing to keep sane!

It’s been a turbulent week for me with the announcement that the Olympics and Paralympics will be postponed. I went to great lengths to get my gym set up in my garage and I’m very fortunate that my sport needs a relatively small amount of kit to train but now I’m very much struggling to find the motivation to train. While it was completely the right decision to postpone the games I’m finding it difficult that the goal is currently unknown, we don’t know when they will rearrange the games for because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks, let alone months. There are rumours about a Spring games assuming the world has returned to some kind of normality by then but we will just have to wait and see!

But it’s not all doom and gloom, I moved into my new house at the end of last year and the lockdown is giving me time to get jobs done around the house, which is driving my boyfriend crazy but we’re both trying to keep as busy as possible. I just hope this lovely weather continues because I’ve got so many jobs I want to do in the garden including setting up some planters where I can grow some fruit and veg.

I’m definitely finding a new appreciation for things and I’m determined that there can be good to come from this incredibly difficult time.

I didn’t want this whole blog to be about the virus because I feel people can get too bogged down with it all which is why I’ve left talking about Manchester to the end.

I honestly can’t believe it was just a month ago!

The build up to the Manchester World Cup was probably my most challenging to date which is why I’m so pleased with the result. For a large portion of the 6 weeks before the competition I was ill and although I had lifted 125kg in training before Christmas, I didn’t know until the training session before my competition whether we were going to be able to get it on the bar. Not only was it a competition PB but it was a tick against a goal I’ve had for a long time.

I hold myself to very high standards technically and I was delighted to get all 3 lifts in Manchester at 120kg, 123kg & 125kg with 8 out of 9 white lights 🙂

I wanted to acknowledge the whole GB team performance in Manchester because for a large number of GB athletes, it was their first international competition. Every single one of our rookies did themselves proud and they contributed 3 medals to the team tally to help us claim the top spot on the medal table.

A huge thank you to everyone that came along to support or watched on the live stream, you support means the world to me.

I also want to give a big shout out to Abigail, who might just be my biggest (and smallest) fan. She dressed up as me for Sport Relief and as you can see from the photo, she’s got her lifting face perfected already. To know I’ve inspired one person makes me so proud, thank you to Abigail and her family for your support.

Stay safe everyone. Stay at home. Save lives.

Paralympic lifting comes to Manchester

Since my trip out to Tokyo I’ve not competed so I’ve had a couple of months to just focus on my training. Things haven’t gone completely to plan but I did some 1RM testing at the end of the last block so we could see where I am, which is always enjoyable.

It’s actually the longest period I’ve had without a competition, since I began powerlifting in 2017 and it’s still 6 weeks until the next international competition.

Selection has been announced and I’m excited that my next competition will be Manchester 2020 Road To Tokyo Para Powerlifting World Cup. This is the first event of it’s kind in the UK and it’s so exciting to have some of the world’s best lifters competing in Manchester. It’s also a fantastic qualification opportunity for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics with everything that comes with a home competition, less travel and no jetlag.

Great Britain are sending the biggest team we’ve ever had, 15 athletes in total, and it’s really awesome to see some talent development athletes being given an opportunity to experience an international competition. Click here to view the full team list.

We’re not used to such large number so I’m interested to see how the logistics change things for us. It will also be a bit different to a normal international competition because I won’t be heading in to the competition hotel until a few days before my competition. A new challenge for me but it’s always good to be able to practice situations different to those you’re used to, in case things go wrong in the build up to a major competition.

It’s likely I will compete on Sunday 23rd February, which is the last day of competition. The schedule is expected to be released nearer the time but since GB will have athletes in most sessions, I encourage you to come along if you’re able to support the team. You can buy your tickets here. I hope to see you there 🙂

Please check out my Twitter and Instagram if you want more regular updates about my journey to Tokyo 2020

Ready Steady Tokyo

I’m currently on the long flight back home from Tokyo (via Seoul) and I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about the last 10 days in Tokyo.

We travelled out before the official competition for a training camp in Tokyo. This allowed us to really test our jet lag strategy for the Paralympics and gave us time to acclimatise before it was competition time.

We had 5 days of training at the Tokyo ParaArena which was a fantastic facility for disabled athletes in the area, complete with 4 para benches and other bits of gym equipment. It provided a great base for our training when we arrived in the city. Our journey to the training venue was on the Yurikamome Transit Line which is a fully accessible train line in the Tokyo Bay area. On the first day we were leaving the station as rush hour was starting and I’ve never seen so many people trying to get on a train, even on the London Underground!

On the first few days, training was really difficult because of travel fatigue and jet lag but after a few days I actually managed to sneak a couple of PBs, which was completely unexpected.

We didn’t get much time to explore the city between jet lag and training but we did get out for about half a day. We went to the Shibuya Crossing, The Imperial Palace and had an extensive tour of the Tokyo Underground system (it was very complicated).

Other competitors started arriving a few days later and we were then in full competition mode. It was a small event with just 70 competitors so there were only two days of competition but the competition was still a Tokyo 2020 qualifying event so I felt it was important for me to strengthen my ranking if possible.

Ali and Mic competed on the first day and I was on the second day. Both the guys had overcome some pretty huge hurdles to be at the competition after they both missed the World Championships in July. They both got silver medals in their respective classes.

Since it was a small competition, it was just me and one other competing in my class so my goal was to get more on the bar than I did at the World Championships. I opened on the same weight (116kg) as I did at the World’s but then I jumped up to 121kg. It moved well and I got 3 white lights. We then went up to 122kg, once again it moved well and I got the lift but this time it was only 2 white lights out of 3.

I was so pleased with my performance because I’ve had a really challenging training block since the World’s and the most I’d lifted previously was 120kg. But having had a good week of training in Japan my confidence was high and although I didn’t feel as well prepared as I did for the World Championships, my bar speed in training suggested I was more than capable of a PB. When I’m going for a PB I try not to think about the weight on the bar, I just keep my process the same and stay as confident as I would be on weights I’ve pressed before…and it worked 🙂

There’s now a bit of a break until my next competition so I’ve got a great opportunity to get some serious training in. I love competing but sometimes it’s great to have time to focus totally on training.

Don’t forget to follow me on social media for regular updates on life and training.

One Year To Tokyo

Yesterday marked one year until the opening ceremony of the Paralympic games in Tokyo and what a great excuse to restart my blog.

I could make a million excuses about why I stopped posting but the long and short is that life got on top of me and other things became a higher priority. But all is well and excited about the year ahead.

The past year has been quieter than the one before but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been competing. I’ve competed at the following events:

  • Asian Open – September 18 – 110kg – 4th place
  • Fazza World Cup – February 19 – 112kg – Bronze
  • Eger World Cup – April 19 – 115kg – Gold
  • British Championships – June 19 – 116kg – Gold
  • World Championships – July 19 – 120kg – 7th place

When I see it written down like that, it’s totally crazy to think I’ve managed to find 10 kilos in a year. My progress has slowed down but has definitely not stopped. Now I just need to find another 10 kilos in the next year.

The World Championships was a fantastic competition for me. Not just because I got a 5kg international PB but also because I got 9 white lights. That’s something I’ve never managed to do before, especially on an international stage. For those that don’t know, each of the 3 lifts are judged by the 3 referee and you are awarded a white light if the lift is good, or a red light if the lift is not good. To get 9 white lights is essentially a perfect score.

While I had a fantastic World Championships, my excellent performance only got me 7th in the world. It was the most competitive female class by a very long way and the medal zone has moved from 125kg to 130kg. That means we’ve got a lot of work to do but seeing those beautiful Tokyo 2020 medals has motivated me so much.

Looking ahead, the next major competition is the test event which is happening in Tokyo at the end of September. This promises to be a fantastic event and will take place in the actual venue where the Tokyo Paralympics ParaPowerlifting will take place in 2020. In my opinion, to be able to compete in the actual venue I hope to be competing in for the Paralympics is the best preparation possible. It gives us an opportunity to trial jet lag strategies, hydration strategies and so much more.

I look forward to writing about the test event at the end of September but if you can’t wait until then for the next installment then please check out my social media channels where I post more regularly. Thank you for joining me on this crazy journey so far, your support means everything to me.

Not-so-quick catch up

I’ve been completely useless lately at doing anything other than training and organising for my sister’s hen do & wedding. I think the main factor in this has been fatigue. Anyway, that’s my excuse for not writing in a while.

It has been just about 4 months since my success out on the Gold Coast and to add to this I am now European and British champion! Someone pinch me!

Just 5 weeks after returning from Australia the Great Britain team headed out to France to compete at the European Open. This is essentially two competitions running along side one another, so European athletes were competing in both the European and the Open competition at the same time. Non European athletes were just competing in the Open competition. Having watched all my teammates absolutely smash it in the competition, each bringing home European & Open medals, I was the last GB athlete to compete and I’d by lying if I said I didn’t feel the pressure to bring home something shiny. Having done some homework, I knew I was capable of getting a medal but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be gold! It certainly didn’t come easy and without the incredible tactics from my coaches on the day, I wouldn’t have a European title to my name. I finished 1st in the European competition and 3rd in the Open competition with a lift of 108kg (which I’d never had on the bar until my final lift of the Europeans).

At the beginning of July I was able to add the British title and British record to my CV, just over a year after taking up the sport! I got a cheeky 1kg PB (109kg) which I’m very pleased with because I’ve tweaked my technique a little but I am a bit miffed I didn’t go 110kg. The British championships was hosted at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry and it was great to see so many women taking part. It is combined with the British Weightlifting Championships and I really enjoyed watching a couple of the weightlifting categories as I’d got a bit of a taste for it watching my teammates out in Australia.

In July I also successfully planned a weekend away for my sister’s wedding. We had a very chilled out weekend on the Isle of Wight. If you’ve never been, you need to go! The island is just beautiful and there is so much to do & see. It’s now just under a month until the big day and I’m getting excited, it has come round so fast!

It has recently been announced that I’m going to Japan for the Asian-Oceania Open in September. My selection for this event is to strengthen my Tokyo qualification position and to do that I need to lift something over 110kg. Training is going well at the moment and I’m hoping I can continue to make gains over the next few weeks so I can confidently go nearer the 115kg mark at the competition. I still find it completely surreal that I’m now essentially a 110kg lifter and now I need to prove to the world that I mean business!

My biggest challenge over the coming weeks will be to enjoy and make the most of my sister’s wedding whilst maintaining my focus for Japan and getting the job done out there. It’s going to be tough but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Hopefully it won’t be another 4 months before I get round to writing something else. I’ve got an idea what my next blog will be about so I just need to get cracking on it. Just in case I continue to be useless and you’d like to keep track of my progress, I’d suggest you check me out on Twitter & Instagram. I post pretty regularly on both and your support by following me would be very appreciated.

What an adventure!

As I’m sat here outside Sydney airport on our incredibly long journey home from the Commonwealth Games, I’m feeling very reflective. Perhaps it’s a serious lack of sleep or just the fact that we’re heading home but what an incredible 3 weeks it has been.

It’s amazing how much things can change in a year! Just about a year ago I was packing up my things in preparation for leaving Italy and if you had told me that within a year I would be a Commonwealth Games silver medallist, I wouldn’t have believed you! I’m delighted with my medal and proud of what I’ve achieved in the last 9 months, as surreal as it is.

For those that weren’t able to follow the competition in Australia, I was able to get 3 good lifts of 97kg, 101kg & 103kg. No PB’s just a weight I was confident with against the Kenyan, Joyce Njuguna, who pushed me to the very last lift. Because of the broad weight classes in the Para Powerlifting at the games, the AH formula is used to work out placing according to bodyweight and put simply, because Njuguna is lighter than me, I had to lift more than her. I left the calculations down to my coaches on the day and I won the silver medal by just 0.2 points! Unfortunately I was still a way off the gold medallist, Ndidi Nwosu of Nigeria, who had over 20 points more than me and lifted 120kg but this has really motivated me to get back to training and smash my next target!

I was lucky enough to have a few of my family in Australia to support me and after the competition I was able to explore the Gold Coast a little with them. I wish I’d had more time to do the tourist thing but I’ll just have to come back to Australia some time. From what I’ve seen of the country I love it!

A bit of a short post for me but we’ve got to go get on our flight to Abu Dhabi. I am sad to be leaving but so looking forward to getting home!

The Commonwealth Games

With it being just 35 days until the opening ceremony of The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, it got me thinking, I don’t know much about the history of the Commonwealth Games so I decided to do some research and I thought I’d share it with you lovely people.

The initial concept of the games was proposed as far back as 1891 by John Astley Cooper as ‘a means of increasing goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire’. Twenty years later, in 1911, the Festival of the Empire was held as a celebration of the coronation of George V. The Festival included Inter-Empire Championships in athletics, boxing, wrestling and swimming, and was hosted at Crystal Palace in London.

The games as we know it today weren’t held until 1930 and since then it has been known by many different names:

  • 1930-1950 British Empire Games
  • 1954-1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
  • 1970-1974 British Commonwealth Games
  • 1978-onwards Commonwealth Games

It wasn’t until the Manchester games in 2002 that disability events were fully included in the games, making it the first fully inclusive international multi-sport event. Before this time disability exhibition events were included in the 1994 British Columbia games but these events did not contribute to medal tallies.

In 1962, 1966, 1970 & 1974 disabled athlete were given the opportunity to compete at The Commonwealth Paraplegic Games. It’s not clear why this competition ceased however in 2007 an agreement was signed to secure the inclusion of disability events at the games in the future.

The Glasgow games in 2014 has been described as “the standout games in the history of the movement” by Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper. I actually went on a road trip to Glasgow and watched some of the cycling road race & netball and I can vouch for the fact that the atmosphere and organisation was incredible. Although I’m pretty certain that this year’s games on the Gold Coast of Australia are going to be even better!!!

I’ve heard people suggest that the concept of the games is out-dated and I couldn’t disagree with this more. As one of the only multisport events where able-bodied and disability sport is shown side by side, I feel it should be encourage and continue for as long as possible. It is a fantastic opportunity to get disability sport into the public eye and that can only be a good thing!

If you want to follow the action the BBC will be covering the event and information can be found on the BBC Commonwealth Games webpage. My competition is on 10th April, most likely in the middle of the night UK time so I’ll forgive you if you’re not watching, but I’ll be putting regular updates on my Twitter and Instagram.

Personally I’m excited and completely honoured to get the opportunity to represent England at the Commonwealth Games 😀

World Championship Fun

It’s been just over 3 weeks since I got home from Mexico where I made my mark in the world rankings in para-powerlifting.

A lot of people have been asking me if I’m pleased with how I performed in Mexico. The answer to that is not a simple yes or no because as an athlete you always want to push yourself and know you could have done more. I was disappointed not to get a crack at a weight over 100kg as it’s something I know I’m capable of. That said, to go out at a world competition and get 2 lifts and earn myself 10th in the world was something I would never have imagined 6 months ago. To be perfectly honest I’m just pleased I didn’t screw up 😂

The experience as a whole was awesome. The atmosphere within the British team was great and so supportive of the newbies. I even managed to get out and visit some of Mexico City with the boyfriend, if you get a chance I would definitely recommend it as it is a fantastic city. If I’m able to find time I’ll do a mini travel blog on Mexico City (see below).

Following the World Championships I took a couple of weeks off training, partly because I got a bug that put me out of action for about a week and partly because I went on a little holiday, which you’ll soon be able to read about on my travel blog at https://accessibleworldtravel.wordpress.com

I’m now on my second week back training which is pretty bad timing due to the whole Christmas thing. I don’t think I’ve ever trained through Christmas like this before but it has been quite disruptive to my schedule and it has been quite difficult to find a gym to use at a convenient time for me. I think next year I’ll have to join a 24 hour gym so I can go at all the crazy times I want to…. or get myself a home gym (I wish)!

It’s that time of year where you can’t help but reflect on the last 12 months. After the disappointment of 2016, I decided that 2017 was going to be a year where I did more of the things that made me happy and I can wholeheartedly say that I’ve achieved that. Not only did I complete a season of professional basketball out in Italy, something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember, but I’ve found a new challenge in para-powerlifting which I’m enjoying immensely and I happen to be pretty good at 😉

As for 2018, I’m excited for what it has in store for me and I intend to work my butt off to make it my most successful year to date.

All that’s left is for me to wish you a happy and successful New Year.

Spot The Rookie

So as some of you may know I’ve had a slight change in career path, moving from playing wheelchair basketball to training for para-powerlifting. As strange as it is being a rookie again I’m absolutely loving the challenges of a new sport and the incredibly steep learning curve.

Since posting a few powerlifting related posts on social media I’ve been receiving a lot more likes from other powerlifters & weightlifting and I find it fascinating to watch other people’s videos. This is partly to learn more about the sport and partly because I’m just nosey 🙂

So let’s address a very important question, what’s the difference between powerlifting and weightlifting? Powerlifting, in the general sense, encompasses bench press, squat and dead lift whereas weightlifting is either snatch or clean & jerk. A technical difference is the speed in which the actions are performed, for example, weightlifting lifts are much faster movements whereas powerlifting involves much slower moves. In the world of Para-Powerlifting the only discipline is Bench Press. Para-Weightlifting isn’t a thing although I think clean & jerk from a wheelchair could be quite entertaining to watch, although maybe for the wrong reasons!

It was June when I had my first trial session with the Powerlifting coaches in Loughborough and as I said previously the learning curve has been incredible. I was unaware of the extent of the technical elements of the press and what is required for a legitimate lift in competition. The most difficult (in my opinion) being that the bar must completely stop on your chest before being pressed. You also have to press level and lock out your elbow for it to be a legitimate lift.

It also seems as if there are also different types of powerlifting, raw & equipped. As suggested by the names, raw powerlifting uses no or limited additional equipment, whereas equipped uses equipment which can assist with the lifts. Now I’ve never personally tried equipped lifting but from my limited research, it seems that it can be quite painful since, for example, the lifting suits used are insanely tight so that they assist the user. Statistically, in equipped powerlifting, it is though that lifters can lift approximately 115% of their max which is pretty damn impressive!!!

Those of you who know me, know I’m a bit of a stickler for correct technique. Personally I will always try to do things well technically and I’m finding that now I have more knowledge in the technical elements of the bench press, I watch people at the gym and critique them (more than I used to)! There are times when I’ve been at my local gym and I’ve had to stop myself from giving people feedback on their pressing technique because lets face it, they don’t need me meddling. But let me share with you my biggest annoyance (you never know, it might help someone out), make sure you take the bar all the way to your chest, if you don’t you’re missing out the hardest bit of the exercise!

So in summary, I’m the know-it-all rookie and everyone loves one of them 😉

A rookie who gets her first taste of world class competition on just under two weeks (eeeek)!!! Check out the details here

Measuring Success

Photo (above): GB women at National Paralympic Day 2013 at the Copper Box Arena, London. Showing Shiv (#5) & Louise (#13) representing Great Britain after a friendly match against Spain.

As mentioned in my last blog, I am going to switch things up a little and where better to start than with a new look to my website. Let me know what you think in the comments.

I’ve also decided that rather than just writing about me, I will write about…well anything I find interesting or think others will find interesting so here goes.

In the last couple of years I’ve had much more of a focus on coaching rather than playing wheelchair basketball which has seen me earn my grade 2 and I’m currently working towards my grade 3. Many people have asked me why I decided to do my grade 3, since it involves a hell of a lot of work, and my answer is simple, I love a challenge. By committing to do my grade 3 and through the work involved in achieving the qualification, I’m improving myself as a coach via constantly reflecting on what I want to achieve and whether I’ve been successful.

I guess the easiest way to measure success in coaching is whether you’ve won or lost a match but there is so much more to it than that, which is something I’m learning every time I coach. You can win a match and have performed badly. It is also possible lose a match but perform well.

So how can you measure your success as a coach? Well I have had a couple of experiences where I feel I’ve been successful which I’d like to share. I could probably share twice as many situations where I’ve been unsuccessful, which can be as valuable for learning but today I’m going to concentrate on the positive experiences.

There are always players that you spend more time working with for many different reasons, an example being that as part of the grade 3 qualification you have to work with an individual, coach them and help them to define & hopefully achieve their goals. My willing victim was Siobhan (Shiv) Fitzpatrick, who (for those that don’t know) is an aspiring GB athlete who I’ve had the pleasure of not only coaching but playing and training alongside. Shiv has cerebral palsy, which is a disability which is not common in the international wheelchair basketball world mainly because of the restrictions it causes, however it is not unheard of players with this disability to play at the highest level. Shiv is a hard worker and her coachability and attitude is second to non and I knew it wouldn’t be long before she would get her senior women call up. When she messaged to tell me of her excitement of being selected for the 2017 European Championships, I was over the moon for her. The bit that made me realise that I’ve made a difference to her journey… the pride she had wearing my GB number 13 vest for the tournament.

Recently I had another moment which made me think about my coaching and what as a player I responded best to in a coach. As a player, I found that I played best for coaches who made me want to win for them and coaches that I wanted to make proud of me. At half time of a match I was coaching, a player told me that they though they were letting me down which I immediately dismissed (because it wasn’t true) but got me thinking. I suddenly realised that my coaching style is reflecting the way I like to be coached as a player and it made me happy to think I might be having a similar positive impact on this player that my coaches have had on me over the years.

So in answer to my original question ‘how can you measure success as a coach?’, my answer is that small moments, conversations and individual performances are what I use to measure my success, along side match results. But it is also important to always ask ‘what could I do better?’.

I’m now facing my biggest challenge to date of coaching the London Titans Premier division team. This is a level I’ve not coached at previously and although I have an incredibly talented group of players, this does not in itself guarantee success. It is making me work harder as a coach and question myself more often, especially during matches but like I said, I love a challenge!