Hi, I’m Sophie Carrigill, I thought my first blog should be an introduction of myself. You will probably know me for being part of the Great Britain Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team. But that was certainly not how my life was meant to turn out.
On the 4thAugust 2010, I was involved in a near fatal car accident in America that left me not only fighting for my life initially, but also with a permanent and life changing spinal cord injury. Thankfully, I was looked after by some of the best Doctors in the world (of course I’m biased, they saved my life!) who after multiple operations put me back together again. Then it was just down to me to decide that I was not going to let what had happened dictate my life.
It was a long road to recovery… knowing the whole time that I would never go back to the confident 16-year-old abled bodied girl who loved to dance, play every sport imaginable and lived a happy, healthy life. But I persevered, with unwavering support from my friends and family I began to understand this new life and adapt to the changes. After leaving hospital I was still very ill, but it became clear that my life was not whole and I needed something to fill that gap that sport had left. I needed to find myself again.
After going on a course in the Lake District with the charity Back Up, my competitive nature came flooding back to me. We were doing activities like rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing and with every new challenge I faced, I overcame it and wanted to be the best at it. I learnt how to adapt, how to view myself as differently abled not disabled and the course showed me that I could do anything I put my mind to. It shaped me into who I am today and the way I choose to live my life.
Soon after I got back from the course, I signed up to join my local wheelchair basketball team. I’d never seriously played basketball before, never mind in a chair, so at first, I found it so difficult! I’d really gone back to the basics and actually that was psychologically harder than it was physically. But I didn’t give up!
After the first couple of months of playing, I eventually picked it up and wasn’t completely terrible. I got noticed by some of the Great Britain coaches and they wanted me to go along to a camp. I was thrilled, obviously, and the rest they say is history! After the London 2012 Games I became part of the Great Britain team and began training with them full time. I was first selected to represent GB at the European Championships in 2013 and let’s just say my life completely changed after that. I didn’t have much of a role in the team at that point and was very much a ‘bench warmer’ but that experience made me determined to get better and push myself. The opportunity of continuing to play for my country and the possibility of doing that at a Paralympic Games was just too exciting for me to not give it my all.
Three years went by, whilst at the same time studying for my undergraduate degree in Sports Psychology, I was juggling training full time as well. I became a more integral part of the team rather than just some on the outskirts, and even had the privileged of Captaining the team for 4 years. The goal of the Paralympics was just around the corner and it certainly became my focus. It had always been my dream as a young girl to compete at the Olympics but I never really had a sport that I could fully focus on to be good enough. After my accident, this opportunity found me and I took it with both hands. I do believe that things happen for a reason and I guess right now my reason for surviving the car accident I was in was to have the opportunity to compete at a Paralympics.
I can only say it was one of the best experiences of my life. The buzz you feel in that environment is like nothing I’ve ever felt before and is a massive motivator for me continuing playing basketball and hopefully being selected for Tokyo Paralympics (which is only 48 weeks away!!). Since Rio 2016, when we came 4th, the team has had a lot of success… European Silver Medallists, World Silver Medallists and the thought of being on that podium in Tokyo just gives me goose bumps!
Although basketball has always been at the forefront of everything I do, I have so many other hobbies that keep me busy. I love travelling and exploring new places. I recently went on a trip around Thailand and it was the most incredible travelling experience I have ever had… I think some people imagine that travelling in a chair would be so difficult, and of course it had it’s challenges, but I went with a completely open mind and was willing to ask for help and I ended up doing some of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We went scuba diving in the Phi Phi Islands, kayaking around Monkey Beach, stayed in some questionable hostels as well as amazing hotels, went to a full moon party where I was freaking out I’d get stuck in the sand and so much more. But I learnt a lot about myself and the biggest thing was that I choose to never ever let my disability hold me back from doing anything I want. Granted you have to plan ahead and ask all the right questions to make it as easy as possible, but nothing should ever hold you back from what you want to do or want to achieve.
And on that note, I’ll get back to some training because my goal until the Tokyo Paralympics go ahead is to be the best athlete I can possibly be and bring home a Paralympic Medal!