Jeanette Chippington MBE
Jeanette Chippington is one of the most successful para-athletes of the 21st Century, enjoying dual career success in Para Swimming and Para Canoe. This month (May 2019) the Six-time European champion added to her impressive medal haul when she won VL2W silver and KL1 bronze in the European Para Canoe championships in Poznan, Poland.
Looking at Jeanette’s success, it is incredible to think in 1982 she couldn’t swim. and had lost her ability to walk after contracting a virus. It was during rehabilitation that her physiotherapist encouraged Jeanette to attend SportsAble’s grassroots disability swimming club at the Magnet Leisure Centre, Maidenhead.
With the help of SportsAble volunteers, and their one-to-one support, within one year Jeanette blossomed from a non-swimmer to a competent athlete; by 1983 she was representing Great Britain in European swimming galas.
Jeanette says, “My first major competition was in 1995. At the beginning of my career I swam all four strokes but towards the end I specialised in 50m and 100m freestyle plus team relays. At the time I was being mentored by another SportsAble Paralympian, Denise Smith. She was an inspiration to me and I wanted to get to her level and beat her – which I did! I had to do a lot of upper body training and start each day with training at 5.30am – and that was just the first session of the day. Back then all I did was swim, eat, swim, eat, swim, swim some more and sleep. I even trained on my honeymoon and flew straight from there to the World Championships in New Zealand!”
This was the start of Jeanette’s Paralympic story. As a swimmer she competed in five consecutive Paralympic Games; Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens, winning 12 medals. Atlanta was her most successful games where she won 2 Golds, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals and broke two World Records.
In 2018, Jeanette’s success continued with 7 more medals across the World and European Championships and World Cup 1. This started with winning World Cup silver in the V1 200m VL2 and bronze in the K1 200m KL3. Two weeks later at the European Championships in Belgrade Jeannette won gold in the KL3 and silver in the VL2. At the World Championships in Montemor O Veho Jeanette took silver in the V1 VL2 200m and bronze in the K1 KL1 200m race.
Her dual career means Jeanette has competed for Team GB in six different games. She is now hoping to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in Para Canoe, making it her seventh Paralympic Games. Jeanette received her MBE in the 2016 New Year’s honours for services to Canoeing.
Jeanette explains, “I will never forget how wonderful it felt to progress from being a newly disabled non-swimmer to representing my country in just over 12 months. I am so grateful for the passion and dedication of the SportsAble volunteers who instilled me with such personal confidence. They made me believe I could do it and that was exactly what I needed at that time. It gave me a new focus in life.”
“That is why I am so passionate about grassroots sporting opportunities for disabled people. Galas like this are so important for children and adults because they can enjoy the benefits of competing and achieving personal goals. Whether it is winning an event or achieving a personal best, it gives people something to aim for and is a great motivator to get active.
“The passion of everyone at SportsAble is also so motivating and it is a Club that focuses on what people can do, not what they can’t. Plus, there is the social side of belonging to a club where disability is totally accepted, and you are around other people who are travelling on their own but similar journey’s. It creates an incredibly supportive network. I even met my husband Stuart at the Club who was a volunteer.
“There is something special about the Paralympics. Suddenly the emotion of it all catches you out. I remember sitting in the changing rooms after the medal ceremony at Atlanta and thinking: “Ah yes, this is why I do what I do.” Just being a competitor and representing your country is enough but if you’re lucky to win a medal, no one can take that feeling away from you.
“To anyone thinking of joining SportsAble I would say have a go – try all the sports on offer and find one that you enjoy. You have to enjoy what you do as then you don’t mind putting in all the hours of training. Nothing comes easy. If you want to get to world class level you have to give your life over to the training but the hard work pays off and the feeling of achievement is amazing.”
Whether you dream of Paralympic success, or want to get out and get active, SportsAble has a range of sports and activities to get involved. Read about our sports here.
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