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Sport the Wong Way

My dreams are becoming a reality and my shell is broken but I am proud. I am a Band of Brother, I am a Weircub and I am Invictus!

Random thoughts along the way Posted on Jun 01, 2014 20:00

This time last year I was preparing for Campaign Bootcamp, waiting to hear whether I was selected to try out at a Paralympic potential event and feeling lost in life. So lost that I didn’t even know how to survive or why I bothered with any element of my life.

Then in June 2013 it all began to change! From that first day in bootcamp to that momentous final day in bootcamp I learnt and developed so rapidly I almost burst my shell. However I only started to scratch the surface and remove a few bricks. The tears and the acceptance that I had to remove my walls and truly allow others in before I could live fully was my first step to now. It was my first roll into a whole new future!

That fragmented shell still remained though and I was still scared that I was going to get hurt. I was scared that if I believed in another was there for me that I’d be left out in the cold again like I have been by many others that I had trusted over the years.

So with that shell remaining and an unwillingness to let others in I went to the Paralympic potential day in Birmingham! Did I expect a miracle? Yes. Did I allow miracles? No.

However a miracle did occur and the paratriathlon guys invited me to their selection camp in the August. So in the intervening 6 weeks I signed up to Band of Brothers, having been prompted to take a look by one of the girls at the potential day, and have never looked back. Within a short period I was invited to the inaugural Front line to Start line event at Tedworth House and gave that day my all. Improving on all the times I had got not a short few weeks before I was also introduced to wheelchair racing.

Bearing in mind that by then I had only spent a short 9 months using a wheelchair and was new to the idea of paralympic sport it was mind-blowing to be able to do wheelchair racing. I had watched, an avidly followed, the 2012 team which included David Weir, Shelly Woods, Jamie Carter, Hannah Cockroft and Mel Nicholls – wanting to be exactly like them one day!

So under the coaches, and the Sky news camera-mans, watchful eye I pushed my first slow sets of 100 metres before he gave me free rein to do a full lap of the track. Once I stopped thinking and allowed my body to flow I could feel the wind in my hair and the track being eaten up below the chairs wheels. As I came round the bend and headed in to a stop I got asked whether I wanted to continue and after a quick chat I set off for another amazing lap.

Coming in to the final 100 metres I noticed that the watching group had grown and now included another man in a suit. So, with arms shaking and nerves in pieces, I gave my first interview about how that push had felt and what it meant to me, which can be seen again here:

http://news.sky.com/story/1121253/paralympics-2016-search-begins-for-stars

However that motivation boost kept going and following an email from Help for Heroes I went to the open day with the Weir Archer Academy and was picked up by the team. A team full of the faces that I had watched streaming live across Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. A team of people that have the best coach in Jenny Archer and the most amazing mentors any racer could wish for with the werwolf himself (David Weir) being our main mentor!

Following that initial day there have been may highs and lows of training, many times where I questioned why I should keep going and wondering, with the additional pain and problems racing bring me, whether it was right for me. However this time I realised I wasn’t just doing this for me and it has never just been about me. Yes I want the gold medals and the winners enclosure VIP feel but I also want to show others that it’s not impossible to dream and succeed!

In March this year I heard about the Invictus games and knew immediately that I wanted to be on that team. I want to go from the fresh faced toothy girl on that Sky interview to a strong and determined competitor in an international field. I want people to see my development and be proud of knowing me, training me and supporting me along the journey.

As that crumbling shell from last June is now becoming dust beneath my wheels; I am welcoming the world in to my heart and being honest about my bad days as well as my good.

I don’t know what the next 12 months will bring me but with my Weir Archer family and the family network of Help for Heroes and the Band of Brothers. I know I can do anything, I know we can do anything and I know together we will be strongest.

When the Invictus Games come to the Queen Elizabeth Park and Lee Valley stadium in September I look forward to having proven my worth as one of the members of the British team. Representing the hopes, dreams and determination shared by all of my brothers and sisters from the military. As well as the support, hard work and willing shown by the Weir Archer team to help me get there and perform to my best.

So I hope that you will also support me on this journey, help me accept that the broken shell is best broken and be with me as my dreams become a reality on the International stage!

If you’d also like to see me perform a beautiful poem against a backdrop of blue sky with many successful faces, including Joss Stone, Ricky Hatton, Joanna Lumley, Daniel Craig, Will.I.Am and Stephen Fry, please watch this next link!

http://invictusgames.org
youtube version – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmLJAIQZv_Y



The upcoming season!

Random thoughts along the way Posted on Mar 30, 2014 21:13

The last 9 months have been a whirlwind of learning, developing and training. However I have slowly started to realise the sports I love, the sports that are okay and the sports that I love to watch!

So with that in mind I started looking at my calendar of events and where I’d be spending my summer. As well as what equipment I’d need to get through it all!

I have been accepted by Help for Heroes to have funding for my own racing wheelchair from Draft which will mean I’ll have one that fits and can help push me towards being the best I can be! I’m going to fund my own recumbent hand bike – it may not be fitted to my bone structure but it will be better than nothing and certainly a very good training aid!

A bike will also mean I can start doing bike races and duathlons if the mood takes me! Just need to make sure with the release of the new ITU Paratriathlon classification that I can definitely classify to compete in non-open races!

Then there is shooting…. I enjoy shooting and may well have a ”natural talent/ability” for it but I struggle with interpersonal relationships at the best of times and I’m not sure I’m made to be a shooter. I love to feel active and to get out there being busy. So for now I will concentrate on those sports that make me feel alive and I will step back from shooting. I can always pick it up again in the future but for now I want to train with my family- Weir Archer Academy!

I am also going to start putting dates of upcoming events where you can watch me on my website! So if you want to see where I’m racing next please take a look on the main site and join me at the finish for a glass of successful hydrating drink!

http://wongster.org.uk/roadtorio/where-you-can-see-me.html



My future in sport!

Paralympic Potential journey Posted on Jan 19, 2014 18:48

After a close of many chapters and starting 2014 afresh I am looking firmly ahead to the future!

I attend my first weekend with DTSGB in a weeks time and will decide whether my future is as a rifle or pistol shooter. How perfect can I make my shot? How easy will I be to train and the big question – do I truly have the natural talent to perfect it and head to be at least the GB womens no.1?

Then alongside that I am strengthening and training my cardio with regular sessions at WeirArcher! I am waiting on news about classification for athletics and in the meantime I’ll do it because I’ve found a place that I am truly happy. I love the training, camaraderie and not having to be anything but myself!

This summer I will decide in what direction my future goes and where it will direct itself next. Will I be a racer, a shooter or will I be both? How do I afford them and will I need to start looking at employing cat-sitters for when I go to competitions? So many questions and worries!

However I’m proud of having this opportunity and being able to show the world what I have! Now I just have to do everyone, and myself, proud!



Classification

Paralympic Potential journey Posted on Dec 03, 2013 00:00

After a hard day yesterday being told that I was currently ineligible to classify as they couldn’t prove the effects of the CRPS are permanent. I headed back to training this evening and kept up to a much faster pace than normal!

My future is uncertain and I have no idea whether I’m on the Road to Rio or the road to fast open races….

All I am certain of is that as part of the Weir Archer Academy I will be the best at whatever I can be and I won’t let this small hiccup stop me. My passion is still there and that’s what I aim to get to the next step with!



My day with the disability shooting team!

GB Shooting journey Posted on Sep 28, 2013 15:04

After meeting two of the coaches at the front line to start line day back in July I was eager to see what would happen when there was more time to listen, learn and find out some more about the sport! That brought me to a very impressive looking gym at Stoke Mandeville stadium on Thursday night and and early to sleep ready for the long day ahead of me on the Friday!

On arrival at the range I noticed that everyone was fairly friendly and noone I didn’t click with straight away. A useful thing if you want to work with the team to an elite level!

We started with a 30 minute presentation about what it would take to be an elite shooter for GB and whether we had the drive and commitment to make it all the way there and beyond to future Paralympic events. Knowing how much I’ve put in so far and the different things I’ve put on hold, including relationships, until I know for sure what my journey is likely to look at means I know I am ready to work for my dreams.

So after this we were split into the different categories to see how they felt and to look at whether we were able to do them. My first was pistol which seemed fairly successful although I never migrated on to actual pellets so I’m not sure at this time whether the coaches liked the look of me. I have my checklist for the next time I pick up a pistol though and am thinking I could practice basic positions with a potato gun just to train my muscle memory and get used to the up and wait!

Then on to classification with the physio and confirmation that I am definitely disabled! I classified as an SH1a for both which means seated with no back support.

To finish the day I went across to the rifle as that is what I was originally spotted for at the talent day in Tedworth House those many moons ago! The coach still seemed to like the look of me and I quickly got started taking dry shots and practising my fire aim position. I then migrated on to the pellets and took some practice shots on the target. These were all over the place although with time I did start getting some 7/8/9s and then finished with an R2 10 round attempt. With a few going wide and the others wide of the centre of the target I’m not sure how well I did but I hope not too badly!

They did invite me back to the camp this next month though and so hopefully then I can actually shoot the pistol to see whether I’m any worse or better! However for that my wheelchair racing and swimming will help grow my muscles and holding a can of beans in the right position might help grow strength and stability. As for rifle a 3kg weight balanced on the knuckles of my left hand and a 2kg weight in my right hand.

So I still have questions to be answered but can I see myself firing targets- yes I can. So I suppose in some respects I met the aim of the day. Now to see where my road to Rio takes me now!



My day with the WeirArcher academy

Wheelchair Racing journey Posted on Sep 28, 2013 14:19

After being invited by the great folks of Help for Heroes and one of their current athletes I was apprehensive about what the day might hold. So I inputted the paperwork and waited for bated breath for Saturday and my trek across London!

On arrival there were lots of people but I couldn’t distinguish who was a parent or an athlete so for fear of saying something silly I just sat quiet instead. After this they has the welcome speeches from the team and I laid eyes on the coach that took David Weir to multi-gold success!

After this it was time to hit the track and after being given a white chair I set off with the help of one of their current athletes in his day chair. The first lap we went round slowly with me trying to listen and learn as much as I could. Onto lap 2 I started to pick up speed and my day chair companion had to pick up to stay with me. So before my 3rd lap he asked whether I was okay and set off to help somebody else learn the ropes – this left me to my own devices and so I started to push harder through the next few laps before rejoining the group for some skills work with Jenny!

She got us to go straight up and back a few times, then started us on one arm only drills before my tire blew out! This put an end to my pushing that day but it didn’t end my future in wheelchair racing! As Jenny invited me back to join their training academy from the following Monday!!

So I’m now two proper sessions down and loving it- looking forward to pushing through with the cyclist this week and seeing how fast I can make the world around me blur past! Finally getting to grips with the gloves and my pushing position so I have high hopes for the next few weeks!

Then in the new year maybe I can look at getting my own chair and taking on some real competitions! I still dream of completing the London marathon and wonder how quickly I can reach that dream! Watch this space!



Decision from Paratriathlon!

Paralympic Potential journey Posted on Sep 11, 2013 04:28

This is what I’ve been told by Paratriathlon after my confirmation event in August.

“It was very clear from both the Birmingham Paralympic Potentials day and the British Triathlon Confirmation Camp that you are very driven to succeed and that you have a very strong will to win. These are fantastic qualities in the sporting context and they will take you far.

You pushed the arm-crank test very well and gave everything that you have. You also showed some good application on the chair pushing and showed an aptitude for pushing in the chair. Your swimming performance was steady and it was good to see you apply yourself and keep pushing throughout the swim test.

At this stage your performance level is not sufficient for us to offer you formal support; however I am confident that if you are able to apply yourself fully to training for all three that you could make significant improvement on your performance levels. If you chose to do this then we would be happy to see you at a further British Triathlon talent ID event in the future.”

So… If I keep training I could go back in future once I’m hitting qualifying times and at the right fitness level.

Although dismayed I won’t give up! I have the ability I just need to train harder and with the right kit. Unfortunately my day chair just won’t keep up anymore and so I’m going to upgrade & look into getting a hand crank at home – training no matter how bad my legs are then!!

Onwards, upwards and moving along my journey 🙂



National Paralympic Day 2013

Paralympic Potential journey Posted on Sep 09, 2013 16:11

I woke up at 8am to attend my first Parkrun 5km in Hackney Marshes which with the intermittent rain and mountains of mud plus potholes was certainly interesting! I didn’t know what time I did but a lady that came in behind me said that she’d run a 35 minute so I was faster than that!

So as I waited for the time to come through and started the celebration of #NPD2013 I was interested to see where I’d come and whether I was faster or still stuck my average timings!

When I hit the Olympic Park I loved the tangible interest and excitement from all walks and wheels of life! So many stands offering info and helping with access requirements. As I started my initial meander down the paths I noticed the healthy food cartels (not a McDonalds in sight!) and the many sports plying for attention.

On the far left of the event was the first stand that got my attention though! Recumbent bikes to try! As I waited and watched many other people try them out and see how they differed to a normal bike I could see the curiosity lighting up their faces. ‘This’, I thought myself ‘is legacy’.

When I jumped on the recumbent and started swinging my way around the course I could hear the moans coming from the otherwise able-bodied user trying his hand at handcycling! I don’t think he’s going to judge it as easy again – no matter how many hours he spends doing weights! I wanted to have gears though and really push through the hills. Instead I elongated my course to keep out of the way and felt proud that I was keeping up with the people using their legs!

Once I had got off and found out where I could train fortnightly I headed off to see how the other sports were getting. Stopping by the wheelchair basketball court and loving the way people who are otherwise able bodied were struggling to move the chairs and use the balls! Bringing it home that being disabled isn’t easy, it’s just different.

Continuing my journey I found the sports stands and started the self-assigned task of speaking to every single one of them. Collecting information for NUS and looking at what opportunities existed for me to take part in.

My favourite was the swimming and the snow sport stands! Swimming are interested in whether I can classify and if I can then learning how to swim properly! It seems being able to swim all 4 strokes (with tweaking and coaching) is an asset that I wasn’t aware I owned! Although as I only taught myself butterfly 12 days ago and am already setting off to swim two lengths per swim session minimum, I have the enthusiasm at least!

Snow sport have told me that if I want to take part I’ll need to do it before I sign for GB because otherwise it’s unnecessary risk that could hurt my #RoadtoRio. Everyone has a hobby that they come back to later in life though right?

After this I waited in line to get the autographs of the paralympic athletes and got to meet a few of the people that up to now have been tiny people on screen or names on my twitter feed!

Then I went to the track area where Mel Nicholls was hanging out! After a period of watching the races unfold before me and the interest, and exclamations at the hardness, of wheelchair racing. I went over and sat in awe like a proper fangirl. I have her colour coded autograph and realised that the athletes really are human just like me! So following asking her for advice, it’s always good to ask the best for the best advice right?, I went down to the chairs.

It seemed that the guy that had approached me earlier was either getting bored or just didn’t actually know much about them. However as the only wheelchair user hanging around I got queried and happily imparted the basics that have been drummed into me so far! Then got the chance to see how I fit into them and am quite proud to say I fitted the 12.5inch version!

After all this excitement I went towards the Copper Box to watch the GB team take on Spain in Wheelchair Basketball. I was ecstatic when I got inside and realised it was the womens team!! So for two hours I cheered, I danced, I clapped and I relished the feeling of being surrounded by people equally as excited to be watching GB play in the Copper Box again!

However my guilty thought of the day came as I was leaving because it was then I allowed myself to be selfish. So I sat soaking the atmosphere and thinking that one day I could be the person the crowds are cheering on to a great finish! Seen as my finish time for the 5km came through as 30:27s which means I will make waves in the future!



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