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Stefanie Reid Q&A: Paralympian, model and inspiration

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Among her glittering achievements Stefanie Reid lists a silver medal in the long jump at the London 2012 Paralympics, a modelling career and, most strikingly of all, overcoming the loss of her leg to become a brilliant athlete and a strong individual. Stefanie spoke to The National Student about her life, her achievements, her struggles and her strength.

1.) What’s the toughest part about excelling as an athlete with a disability?

The tough part is that you have the same challenges as every other athlete, but on top of that, you have to deal with the additional expenses, additional time commitments, additional stresses that come with having an artificial leg or a wheelchair or a guide runner. But I don’t necessarily view this as a negative. Tough things make you tough, and teach you to be a creative problem solver.

2.) Do you think your appearances in Vogue and beyond can help women with disabilities to be more body confident?

My hope is that it makes everyone more body confident. I want all women to be empowered to choose what they think is beautiful, and not just go with what a beauty editor decides is “normal”. An increase in the variety of bodies we see in media is an important step in the right direction.

3.) What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?

It is my gold medal in the long jump at London 2017. It took me 11 years to finally win a global title! But the best part about it was the hug and celebrations from my coach, Aston Moore, along with the congratulations from my competitors and their coaches. I have known many of my competitors a long time. We have witnessed each other’s ups and downs, and it meant so much that they were celebrating alongside me!

4.) Was it tough switching from rugby to athletics at first?

It was tough because I loved rugby so much and it was really hard to let my original dream go. But you have to follow where opportunity takes you instead of sitting on the side-lines and wishing for different circumstances. As it turned out, I loved athletics and it was a great fit for me temperament and my physicality.

5.) How quickly after your accident did you get back into sport?

I was back on a volleyball court about 5 months after my accident, and back trying to play rugby 8 months later. But the truth is, it didn’t go so well. It was too soon for my body. My residual stump had a hard time dealing with the impact of running. Running was painful after a few minutes and my skin would blister and break down. It just meant that I had to moderate activity for a few years until my body adjusted. It took about 4 years to get back to a full training load.

6.) How did you juggle athletics with your studies, while at University, and how have you studies helped you since?

Simple – I didn’t sleep. I don’t recommend it! I was on an academic scholarship which meant that I had to study a lot, I was trying to qualify for international meets, and I wanted to enjoy my time at university. Something had to give, and in this case it was sleep. My lifestyle was not sustainable, but I knew it was only going to be for a short time so I powered through. I learned that excellence requires focus, and sometimes you have to say no to good things in order to achieve something great. It was a big part of the reason I decided not to pursue medical school after graduating with a degree in biochemistry and focus on my athletics.

I am so thankful for my amazing education at Queen’s University followed by a year studying theology at Regent College. I admit I no longer have the periodic table memorized, and I would probably struggle to solve a calculus equation. But the point of an education is to learn how to problem solve, how to think independently, and how to be a lifelong learner. I use these skills every day in my sport and in my life.

With all those experiences behind her Stefanie is currently taking part in the IConquered campaign, to inspire people to overcome their own personal issues, big or small. Find more information on IConquered HERE

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