Inspiring and supporting young people seriously injured through sport

Sophie Elwes


My name is Sophie Elwes and when I was 22 I sustained a spinal cord injury which left me paralysed from the chest down. Initially I was very unwell and I was given 40% chance of survival whilst in ICU at Kings College Hospital. After waking up from an induced coma and becoming stable, I was transferred to Stoke Mandeville hospital where I spent four months being rehabilitated and learning how to live independently again. I had always been very independent and strong willed and the idea of needing to depend on someone was not an option for me!

Whilst I was at Stoke Mandeville I met a skills trainer from the charity, Back Up, who told me about their courses. One of which was a ski course where I would learn how to sit ski in America. Having been a keen skier previously I was thrilled at the chance that this was possible but was not sure if it would give me the same ‘buzz’ that it previously had done. A year after my injury I went on the course to Colorado and I absolutely loved it. My level of injury is T3/4 which means I have very little core strength, and this meant that it was more challenging due to lack of balance. But I persevered and found that it gave me the adrenaline that I found I had really missed being in a wheelchair. I absolutely loved the feeling of freedom I got, leaving my wheelchair at the bottom of the slopes, and being able to fly down the mountain at some speed! It’s not an easy sport, and involved a great deal of falling and frustration but I decided that I wanted to continue skiing in order to become independent and to be able to go away with my friends.

After three seasons of skiing I am now competing in international ski races representing Great Britain. I am currently ranked 22nd in slalom and 20th in Giant Slalom in the world and am aiming to qualify for the next Paralympic Games.

Through working at Back Up, I met Tim Farr, a recently retired Winter Paralympian and sit skier. He gave me lots of advice and guidance as I began racing and training with British ParaSnowsport. I asked him about equipment as my current sit ski seat didn’t fit me well enough and I was aware that a new custom seat would benefit my performance. He recommended getting in touch with the Matt Hampson Foundation who generously funded his own seat when he was competing. I did and consequently met Tommy Cawston at Milton Keynes during a training session. He watched me ski and we talked about my aims for the future and what I was looking for.

The Matt Hampson Foundation have generously funded a new custom sit ski seat made by Aspen Seating which fits me perfectly and enables me to perform to a higher standard. I received the seat and after only two days of skiing in it I can already see vast improvements and can’t wait to see where I can go from here!

The Matt Hampson Foundation are a fantastic organisation who help and support people to participant in sports when a disability might create barriers. By funding this equipment for me, it has meant that I am able to perform better and I am looking forward to competing in an international race next month for the first time in my amazing new seat!


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