Sophie Carrigill says playing wheelchair basketball was crucial in helping her adjust to her new identity as a disabled woman.
Carrigill’s life was turned upside down in 2010 when – aged just 16 – she was involved in a horror car crash while on holiday in America and suffered spinal injuries that left her in a wheelchair.
After recovering from equally horrific internal injuries Carrigill, now 29, decided that life had to carry on and came across wheelchair basketball.
And it paid dividends as she was able to get to elite level, representing Team GB at two Paralympics – with a third on the horizon – and was part of the GB team that won silver at the 2018 World Championships.
But at first it was not about the success, it was about making her transition into a new way of life as easy as possible.
“Previous to the accident I was very sporty and I wanted to get back into it as soon as possible after,” she told the PA news agency.
“I wanted to get back playing in some competitive team sport.
“I never knew where it would go or what level I would end up getting to. But that initial phase was getting back into doing something I love and meeting new people as well.
“Having that resilience and a bit of grit when you go through something like that and then to get out of the other side and I feel like I am thriving.
“I get to play sport for my job and I have got to travel the world so it is a really incredible opportunity.
“I would not have been playing this level of sport had I not had my accident so I do feel lucky in a way because the stars all aligned for this to happen.
“It is the most traumatic thing I would not wish on anybody but it has ultimately left me with an amazing life and I am fortunate to be doing what I am doing now and I do love it.”
Although the life-changing incident happened 13 years ago and Carrigill, who is based in Yorkshire, has achieved so much since, she admits it is only recently that she has fully accepted her transition into disability.
“It was a difficult transition but I only sort of understood it as I have grown older,” she said.
“My identity was all over the place anyway as a 16-year-old and then this massive car accident came and changed it all up on top of everything else that was already changing.
“It was a big adjustment period in accepting my identity. Only recently have I fully understood how difficult that was.
“Having that carefree way of living has helped me the most and just accepting who I am.
“It’s about learning to love yourself, I know that sounds cliche, but that is what I have done over the years.”
British Wheelchair Basketball has teamed up with the Motability Scheme, intended to enable disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair, using their disability benefit.
The two organisations will aim to remove barriers to sporting participation so that more disabled people can access and enjoy healthier, active lifestyles, with wheelchair basketball identified as one of the most inclusive sports around.
Carrigill added: “It is an incredible sport, it is one of the most inclusive sports out there at the moment.
“Able-bodied people can play alongside people with disabilities. At grassroots level it is great that so many people can play it. At the top end it is super competitive, fast-paced and exciting to watch.
“It’s a really great sport to watch and support.”