We were delighted to welcome Team GB Athlete and aspiring Winter Paralympian, Sophie Elwes, to Calne on Tuesday 27th November, to talk about Finding fun and reigniting a passion for sport, after a life-changing accident.
Following an enjoyably chatty supper with Sophie, which was attended by a number of our A Level PE students and Sixth Form Sports Teams, we joined other members of the Fifth and Sixth Forms in Chapel for Sophie’s talk. Hanging on her every word, we were absolutely enthralled by her remarkable story.
At 22, having just graduated from university and with plans for the future, Sophie’s life altered drastically when she sustained a spinal cord injury after a fall, leaving her paralysed from the chest down. Thankfully, having been given just a 40 percent chance of survival, Sophie woke up from her medically induced coma. She was transferred to Stoke Mandeville, where she spent four months being rehabilitated and it was during her recovery that the charity, Back Up, came to her rescue by suggesting a Sit Ski course in America. Initially slightly reluctant, she seized the opportunity and a year after her accident was totally hooked. Sophie explained it was very difficult at first to get her balance and showed us a video clip of her first wobbly attempts, followed by some hugely impressive footage of her speeding down the slopes as her experience and confidence grew.
This was the turning point, and Sophie has not looked back. Following further training, she started racing in events, including the International Paralympic Committee US Nationals, coming 4th and 5th in the Slalom and Giant Slalom, and then, in 2016, she was spotted by one of the head coaches for the British Disabled Ski Team who invited her to train with them. Sophie is now an athlete on the British Parasnowsport Development Team, as well as working with Back Up, and also waterskies as often as possible. She is currently ranked 26th and 28th in alpine skiing giant slalom and slalom in the world, and hopes to qualify for the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2022.
Sophie also talked about overcoming the obstacles of being in a wheelchair, including the difficulties of access, the stone steps leading up to many of London’s older buildings being one example, and even the challenges of getting dressed. Many things that we tend to take for granted. However, she is able to drive herself in a specially adapted car, which has given her tremendous independence and freedom. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed her talk, 'It was such an inspiring talk and really amazing to hear about such a different side of sport,' commented Amelia (Year 13).
Sophie shares her adventures and tips on how to travel with a disability, complete with blogs and vlogs, on her website Our Adaptive World.com
In aid of Back Up, which has given Sophie such huge support following her accident, she will also be ‘pushing’ the London Marathon in her wheelchair in 2019 to raise funds to help others with spinal cord injuries. ‘Even though I now am loving life and often say I couldn't be happier, the last seven years have been a real rollercoaster, and I owe so much of my happiness now to Back Up.’ If you would like to sponsor Sophie, click on https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sophieelwesmarathon
Sophie, we wish you every success!