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Issue 01

MELANIE
WOODS

Club71 - Melanie Wood A BW.jpg

PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY MAIDMENT

WORDS BY VICTORIA McINTYRE

In 2018, Melanie was hit by a car when out for a weekend cycle. The accident caused an injury to her spinal cord. From that moment on, her adventures have continued, they just now feature wheels.

It began as an exploration with the humble goal of re-introducing sport into her life, and has led to her representing Team GB in Tokyo’s Paralympics, and a place in Team Scotland for the Commonwealth Games this summer.

Where disability sport is often seen as synonymous with elite athletes who represent their countries, Melanie wants to raise awareness and encourage participation of every-day recreational sport and physical activity throughout the disabled community. Her message is simple: sport and physical activity is for everyone.

Melanie speaks to us about her journey as an athlete, and her hopes for the future.

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How soon after the accident did you feel that sport was going to come back into your life?

I spent around seven months in a rehabilitation unit, learning how to live this new life with a disability. I had to figure out what life would look like for me going forwards. Seven months is a long time to spend in hospital so from my hospital bed I started watching all the sporting events that were going on throughout the year. I think that started with the Winter Paralympics, then the Commonwealth Games and on to the summer tennis at Wimbledon. I started looking at disability sport with a new perspective. I was watching all these incredible people, incredible athletes doing amazing things despite their disabilities and challenges. It got me excited about what I could try. It was like being a kid again, where you go to different sports clubs and try different things without any fear of failure. I just wanted to get started. It began there, and when I got out of hospital, I started searching for what sports would be in my life going forward.

What different things did you try? 

Initially I was just getting used to pushing a chair, being out and about navigating different surfaces and curbs – just every day life in a chair. My next challenge was to go to the gym. I got into the pool, I went along to the tennis club and then to a local athletic club who had a group of wheelchair racers. There was a mixture of abilities, some beginners, some fun riders, and at the other end of the scale were the elite athletes who were training full time. I was also given an opportunity to go skiing in Colorado which allowed me to really see what I could still do with a disability. I didn’t even think that skiing would be a possibility. I didn’t think that flying across the world to be up in the mountains independently was even an option so to be able to do that was just like, wow. All those things I thought I couldn’t do, I actually can, and I think it opened my eyes to what the future might look like.

Read Melanie's full interview in Issue 01 of Club71

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