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!

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 Cantù 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.