Jordanne Whiley; Stef Reid; Dame Sarah Storey (Photo: Getty Images)
Jordanne Whiley; Stef Reid; Dame Sarah Storey (Photo: Getty Images)

WOMEN WE LOVE

The Paralympic women to cheer on

 If you thought there were impressive women competing for Team GB at The Olympics, you ain’t seen nothing yet, says sportswriter Alison Kervin

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By Alison Kervin on

Hannah Cockroft 

Known as ‘Hannah the hurricane’, Cockroft is one of Britain’s leading Paralympians and the world record holder in 100m and 200m wheelchair racing. She was born with cerebral palsy and her parents were told that she would never be able to walk, talk or do anything for herself. Doctors advised that she was unlikely to live past her teenage years. But medical predictions aren’t always right, and aged 20, Cockroft was one of the stars in 2012, setting two Paralympic records on the way to winning two gold medals. She is well-known for giving her wheelchairs meaningful names so that the long training sessions feel less lonely. Rather movingly, her current chair is called ‘Tinker’ after one of her best friends who died last year.

Hannah Cockroft

MARTINE WRIGHT MBE

Wright’s story has been well-told, but it bears repetition because this incredible woman has come to symbolise so much about defiance in the face of life-changing injury. Wright lost both legs in the 7/7 London bombings. She remembers getting onto the circle line train at Moorgate, settling down to read her newspaper, then nothing until smoke engulfed the carriage. Next she recalls seeing her new white trainer suspended above her in the twisted metal. She would later discover that it contained her foot. She lost 80% of her blood in the violent attack and her life was saved by an off-duty nurse who rushed to her aid. But, despite the care of the medic, both of her legs had to be amputated above the knee. She turned to sport to keep fit and meet new people, trying wheelchair tennis to start with, before discovering sitting volleyball. She was a natural. She competed in London 2012 and this week will be in Rio reporting for Channel 4 as part of their presenting team. “I’m not bitter,” she told The Independent newspaper. “I can’t change what happened and a lot of good has come out of it…volleyball is one of those good things."

Martine Wright

PAM RELPH

Relph, 26, is a rower who is looking to defend the mixed coxed four gold that she won in London four years ago. Her rowing event is interesting because it’s mixed – with men and women competing with one another and against one another. But that challenge is not enough for Relph who told the Evening Standard: “In as much as I have a disability and I’m never going to go to the Olympics, my disability is a minimal one. I want to see how close I can get and I want to merge that boundary between Paralympic athlete and able-bodied athlete.” Relph suffers from psoriatic arthritis which has caused her joints to weaken and the bones in her right wrist to fuse together. “There’s no reason why there needs to be that great gap in the middle between Olympic athlete and Paralympic athlete,” she said. “I’m trying to break down those barriers in training every day.”

Pam Relph

GEORGINA HERMITAGE 

Hermitage is a 400m racer who has made an instant impact on the Paralympic world, clocking up world record breaking times, then smashing those world records. She lost her mum to cancer when she was just eight years old and didn’t know she had cerebral palsy until she was 14. Her mother had always told her that she had hemiplegia which meant she had a left weak side. Hermitage told the BBC that she always felt ashamed of her disability when she was a girl, so it never occurred to her to take up sport, then in 2012 she watched the London Games and decided that’s what she wanted to do with her life. Four years on, and that dream is about to become a reality. 

Georgina Hermitage

DAME SARAH STOREY

Storey is an incredible sportswoman – one of the best that Britain has ever produced – male or female, Olympian or Paralympian. She is just astonishing. She was supremely successful in 2012, winning four cycling golds; two on the track and two on the road. But four gold medals in one Games tells only a part of this woman’s incredible story because she previously competed in the Paralympics as a swimmer, winning two golds, three silvers and a bronze in Barcelona in 1992. She continued swimming in the next three Paralympic Games but a nasty ear infection meant she had to change sports, so she switched to cycling in 2005, and started gathering in the golds in that sport as well. She was born without a functioning left hand.

Dame Sarah Storey

JORDANNE WHILEY

Whiley is a tennis player who won bronze in the 2012 Paralympics. She suffers from hasosteogenesis imperfecta, known commonly as brittle bone disease, which means her bones break very easily. She has broken bones hundreds of times, including breaking her legs 26 times. It led the 24-year-old to be bullied at school. Tennis became her refuge and she excelled from an early age, becoming Britain’s youngest ever women’s singles champion in wheelchair tennis at the age of 14. She won bronze in the doubles in London and is hotly tipped for gold in Rio.

Jordanne Whiley

STEF REID

Reid is a five-time world record holder and double Paralympic medalist in the long jump and 200m sprint, and reigning European long jump champion. Reid was always sporty: by the age of 12 she was dreaming of playing rugby on the world stage. But at 15, she was involved in a boating accident; her foot was caught in the propeller, it was badly damaged and had to be amputated. Reid assumed her sporting days were over and went to university to study biochemistry. While she was there, she joined the university athletics team and discovered she was rather good at long jump and 200m. More golds beckon in Rio.

Steph Reid

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Jordanne Whiley; Stef Reid; Dame Sarah Storey (Photo: Getty Images)
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Rio 2016 Paralympics
women in sport
women we love

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