I was born 6 weeks premature , and as a result of this my lungs had not fully developed.
My father told me that when I was born, via C section, that I was blue. He then pointed this out to the midwife saying “Not sure he should be that colour!”
I was put on a ventilator to help with my breathing, and place in a incubator.
I was there was a good few weeks, with my father at my side every day, as my mother was in intensive care after a traumatic time during the C Section.
It was touch and go for a while, when the local vicar called Rev Alan Neale who now works in Philadelphia ,asked to come and see me. He asked to place his hand on me in the incubator and said a prayer. 6 weeks later I was home, needing no oxygen. I will have to say at this point that I’m not a regular church goer in the slightest , but I would like to think a slight bit of divine intervention happened that day. He obviously knew the Welsh rugby team needed as much support as they could get!!
Because of the lack of oxygen, and resulting brain damage, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, affecting my legs. Walking took along time for me to grasp, so my parents sat me in a high chair in the kitchen and just talked to me. I was having full on conversations at a very early age.
At school, I was always involved in sport and coming from a welsh background was bought up on rugby! I played every sport in school, not to a great level , but rugby was the one I enjoyed most, and managed to play at the highest level.
Athletics was just a sport I competed at in the summer, at local and national events just for fun, never considering I would ever take it to the highest level.
It was competing at the National Junior Athletics Championships in Blackpool in 1998 that I got seen by one of the Great Britain coaches at he the time, Tony Williams, who said I should come to the National Championships in Nottingham a few weeks later.
From this I gained selection for the World Championships a few months later in Birmingham. I came back from the Worlds with two gold medals in my class in the 100m and 200m and a new world record in the 200m.
The first consequence of this was no more rugby! 1998 was the first year the lottery funding had come in Paralympic sport, so I was a funded athlete. Rugby was a definite no go. From then on the focus was Sydney 2000.
Now, I’ll be very honest and say that Sydney was a blur. Can’t remember much at all. Apart from the crowd sizes. Usually you have families and one man and his dog watching you run. The morning of my 100m final there was over 80,000. I was in great shape, and going on season times and the other competitors, I was in with a great chance.
At the end of October 2000, I was leaving Sydney with 2 Paralympic gold medals, 2 world records and a silver in the 4 x 100m relay thrown in for good measure.
It went a bit crazy when I got home , but I was kept firmly on the ground by my family. Appearances on ‘Question of Sport’ and the obvious highlight ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’!
When I look back at it all, I’m not sure I was able to appreciate it all at such a young age. I just took it all in my stride. If Idid it now at 32, my emotions would probably be a lot more visible! I’m very lucky to achieved what I have , and I’ve made the best with what I’ve been dealt.
Having a disability has made me who I am today, and from this have achieved goals and had fantastic experiences that I may have never had to chance to savour.