A young Connect member shares her story of being selected for the 2018 CPRISA World Games.
My name is Olivia Gallagher, I’m a normal 16-year-old who was born at 24 weeks and needed lots of oxygen to help my breathing, which caused a bleed in the brain. The result of this means I have Cerebral Palsy, as well as a hearing and visual impairment. At times I have found life very challenging as I have had to face lots of hurdles. Before I took part in sport I was not the person I am today.
In 2014 I met the Paralympic gold medallist and seven times London Marathon winner, David Weir CBE, and his coach Jenny Archer MBE, and got the amazing opportunity to start wheelchair racing. My Dad found out about the Weir Archer Academy after the London Olympics and said to me ‘why don’t we go for a taster session’ – ever since I haven’t looked back.
In 2015 I got classified as a T33 wheelchair racer and I have improved and broken age group records, and got to be in the top three in the World and UK rankings for the 400m and 800m. I’m currently training in preparation for the 2018 CPRISA World Games in Barcelona, when I will represent England.
I really hope to get the support of the RNIB community behind me for the World Games - and I hope to do England proud.
The T33 wheelchair race is for people who have cerebral palsy in all four limbs and have poor trunk control and find it hard to walk long distances unaided. The thing that attracted me to wheelchair racing was watching David Weir win four gold medals in London 2012.
Being a wheelchair racer with a visual and hearing impairment affects me massively when on the track and road; because I can only see up to 3 metres with my left eye, and I’m completely blind in my right eye, and, I also suffer with Nystagmus. This makes me frustrated because at times I really struggle to see clearly, and I definitely find it harder when it’s dark, as I can’t see who’s in front of me, and I can’t visualise who’s talking to me from behind, or see the lines on the track very easily. I sometimes find it hard to look up and see what is in front of me, because my eyes can do things that I don’t want them to do, and in the past this has caused me to bump into people. This means that I have to be extra careful when I train in Richmond Park where there are cars and lots of cyclists.
When I first started at the Academy I was finding it very hard to make friends at school and I didn’t want to do much with my life and had very little confidence to talk about my disabilities. I didn’t want to go out, and I definitely wasn’t a sporty person, because I found it very difficult to take part at school. But this sport has given me the opportunity to make friends who understand what I have been through; and I love the fact that it’s such a great support network, not just for me but for my parents.
At college, I’m studying sports science and doing my English GCSE and resitting my maths. I hope to get the grades to do a Degree in sport.
My dream is to do well at the Games next year, and I hope to get that medal, that I have wanted for so long; and to show people that it doesn’t matter if you have a visual or hearing impairment and a physical disability, because that should not stop you from doing what you love most.
I hope this blog helps inspire people to try sport and get involved, because you feel like you are part of one big family and get the support from others around you, which helps you achieve your personal goals. If you are interested in getting into sport then go to BBC Get Inspired, and type in what sport you want to do, and I am sure there will be something for you.
Thank you to everyone who has continued to support me in reaching my goals and living my dream. Never give up. And thank you for taking time to read my blog.