Kathy Critchlow-Smith

Archery really appealed to me. I saw an advert in the local paper for a club near to me and I thought I’d give it a go. As soon as I started shooting I really enjoyed it, and wanted to continue it seriously and so I joined SportsAble in 1993.

It took about five years to get to elite athlete status. I didn’t go into it with any thoughts of representing my country but the better I got the more I enjoyed it and I started to do really well.

SportsAble was great in the first few years of my career particularly. I felt really well supported and received help with funding equipment. To be a top class archer you need top class bows and arrows and I was able to get those thanks to the club. SportsAble helped me to enter tournaments as well but the main reason I joined was to get coaching from the late Ray Fields.

Prior to joining SportsAble I competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. I looked around and noticed that all the other archers had coaches and when I returned I got in touch with Ray.

I have many memories of my four Paralympic Games. I suppose that the first one, Barcelona, stands out the most because the opening ceremony was unlike anything I’d been a part of before. I didn’t know anything about the Paralympics before then and to enter a stadium full of 70,000 people was an enormous shock – but a very pleasant one.

The Sydney Games were probably the most meaningful. I’d had some surgery in 1999 and didn’t think I was up to making the squad but I did and came away with two silver medals. The Aussies take their sport very seriously and were very supportive of us. It was a wonderful experience. When you go to the Paralympics it’s like you’re part of this great big family. The atmosphere is incredible. I’ve been to many World and European Championships but there is something special about the Team GB spirit at the Paralympics. Plus, you are representing your country, which is an enormous privilege.

What inspires me is knowing that I could always do better. I always have something else to be working towards and that drives me. Also, taking part in Paralympic Games is a very humbling experience. Some competitors are very disabled and yet are such amazing athletes and it is inspiring to be around them. Also, you owe it to all the people who have had an input in your training and everything that you do so you do the best that you can for them as well. I don’t think I’ve got to my best yet and that keeps me going.

To athletes just starting out I would say have a dream but before you go down that route write everything down. Write down the steps you’ve got to take to get to county level, national level and so on. Nothing is impossible. Be determined and committed and have absolute dedication to your sport. It takes an awful lot of effort, but it’s worth it.

Kathy Critchlow-Smith
Five-time Paralympian and Patron of SportsAble

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