Inspiring and supporting young people seriously injured through sport

Sophie Elwes

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!

ROBBIE EVANS

My name is Rob, Growing up I played lots of different sports, so when I became paralysed...

TOM SOMERVILLE

My name is Tom Somerville and, like Hambo, I suffered a high-level spinal injury playing rugby...

MATT BALL

Matt is an important member of our Leicester Tigers Wheelchair rugby team and we were delighted...

PAUL ALLEN

We were made aware of Paul a former Professional footballer from Alex Bennett a friend of Matt's...