International Women's Day - Empowerment in Parasport

March 9, 2021

As we continue our series celebrating International Women's Day our featured Woman in Sport today is para-triathlete Sophie Veron

‘I got into this type of sport by accident but I’ve developed a real love for it,' said Sophie.

‘My journey started in 2005 when major spinal fixation surgery, due to scoliosis, meant that I could no longer do sports that I enjoyed such as gymnastics. After a battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I completed school but I started losing the use of my legs. I kept falling over and was very uncoordinated. Doctors discovered that I had hydrocephalus, water on the brain, and so I underwent surgery to place a shunt. This is a clever device which drains fluid, internally, from my head to my tummy. It was amazing, two days after the surgery I walked out of hospital unaided! It wasn’t all smooth sailing but 10 brain surgeries later I’m a shunt warrior and love to live life to the full as much as I can.

‘My balance was affected and therefore riding a normal bike was impossible, this is when Trixy the trike came into my life and I’ve never looked back. The freedom I feel out on the roads is amazing! Together Trixy and I have been on many adventures including cycling London to Paris and doing the 100km Ride the Night London challenge. It was these challenges which led to me being asked, by UK charity Shine, to compete in my first para-triathlon at Dorney Lake. I agreed and thought to myself well, I can definitely give it a go.

‘Before my back surgery, I loved swimming but unfortunately a rare side effect of the surgery led to my centre of buoyancy being lost. This didn’t stop me though, I just swam with a buoyancy aid. I can’t run either due to balance issues and problems with my back, so for this challenge I walked the run section. The joy I felt when I completed this event was amazing, it was so inclusive and everyone was so supportive, I definitely got the bug!

‘I now train with Tri-fitness and have found more streamlined adaptations such as buoyancy shorts for swimming and I was kindly given a racing wheelchair to use for the run section of para-tris.

‘The Guernsey sporting community has been so welcoming and accommodating. I encourage anyone who, like me, thought that their sporting days were over to give sport a go. Try a few different things and don’t be embarrassed to use adapted equipment. Embrace you; you are unique and take the dis off disability and you are left with ability. We all have that in us, we just have to let it shine.

‘I think the empowerment of women is also paramount. Build each other up and support each other in good times and hard times. Lockdown is a good example of this; we may not be able to meet up as we normally do but women have been teaming up to go socially distanced sea swimming, which has helped women’s mental and physical health.  

‘I would encourage local government and national government to keep promoting women’s leagues across sport and also encourage mixed leagues. In 2021 women should be able to compete in the same sports as men and vice versa. The stigma of sports such as rugby being a male only sport is declining but there needs to be more media coverage of these women’s sports.’

#ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021