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'It was a complete miracle I survived' says Paralympian medal hopeful

Stef Reid, an amputee, is competing for Great Britain in the Paralympics. She talks to Stuart Weir about sport, faith and why she owns five legs

Stef Reid, an amputee, is competing for Great Britain in the Paralympics. She talks to STUART WEIR about sport, faith and why she owns five legs

How did you lose your leg?

In Canada [where Stef grew up] they have a thing called ‘tubing’ where you attach an inner tube to a motorboat. The point is to go very fast and then you fall off and they come back and pick you up.
I saw the boat coming in the distance and thought they were coming to pick me up. Too late I realised they had not seen me.

The propellers caught me across my lower back. The water around me was blood red. I thought I had been cut in half. The next issue was that we were three hours away from a half-decent hospital.
Unfortunately the leg was so mangled that it had to be amputated. So I was really thankful to be alive. But with my love for sport, I was absolutely devastated. The stuff that you love to do, you are told that you cannot do it any more.

What has been the highlight of your sports career?

The 2008 Paralympics. The best way to describe Beijing would be 10 times harder and 100 times more fun than I had ever imagined.

My best event was the long jump, but I was shocked that at eight in the morning there were 90,000 people in the stadium. It threw me.

Six jumps and I fouled five of them and finished in fifth place – in an event I should have won.
I hate it that that medal came down to the fact that I could not hold it together mentally.

Then, four hours later on the same day, having hit a massive low, I had to go back to the stadium and compete in the 200 metres final.

I am proud of that because even though I basically just failed in the long jump, I was able to learn from what I did wrong and go back with a different attitude. I walked away with a bronze medal.

Do you believe in anything beyond yourself?

I don’t come from a Christian family but my parents sent me to a Christian school. We had Bible classes. I had very good head knowledge of the Bible but it wasn’t a major part of my life.

Everything changed when I was in the accident. I remember lying in the ambulance. I was scared because I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to heaven.

I did not know God. I had never asked him what his plan was for my life. I remember praying for a second chance.

It was a complete miracle that I survived the accident.
I know that God had a hand in that.
I also know that by me not dying, I still had a purpose here. There is a reason for me to be here and it completely changed my perspective. It changed me as a person and I committed my life to him in the ambulance.

Now I look at things from the perspective of hope. I have always got hope. I think that is the biggest difference.

How many legs do you own?

Currently I have about five. There is my everyday leg to walk around in. I have two running legs. Those are the cool blades that I run and do practice with.

I have a swimming leg – which does not have any metal components in it. And my favourite leg which enables me to wear three-inch high heels should the need arise!

What are your hopes for 2012?

Part of it is medal-oriented and partly person-oriented. From a personal standpoint, I just want to be in a place where I can go out there in complete freedom and just perform to my best potential.

I want to go into the arena, free from nerves, free from fear and go and attack. From a more objective perspective, I want to win gold in the long jump and reset the world record in doing it. And I would like to medal in the 100 and 200 metres.

Stef Reid takes part in the 100 metres, 200 metres and the long jump in the T44 class

Photos: Above: UK Athletics
Home Page: Enigma Pictures


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