33-year-old Penny has been disabled since a small child due to Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Scoliosis and Nerve Damage. Her movements are severely limited and she is confined to a wheelchair, needing around the clock care and support.
A chance meeting with a SportsAble representative at the Royal County of Berkshire Show reintroduced Penny to the idea of sport as a way of escaping isolation and getting some gentle exercise.
That was four and a half years ago and Penny has transformed herself since joining SportsAble and is thankful for that chance meeting.
Stuck at home for years since leaving college at 18 Penny’s self esteem was pretty low. When she joined SportsAble back in 2011 she found it very painful to make eye contact and chat to other members in the club but stuck at it and enjoyed her sessions. Slowly, she began to make friends and to grow in confidence. As Penny came out of her shell, her sporting prowess shown through brightly.
Penny quickly picked up the basics of two sports so adeptly – rifle shooting and boccia – and her coaches fastracked her onto a development pathway, first entering her into regional and national competitions where she started to impress people up and down the country. At the same time as medalling in shooting competitions (some, where she was up against able bodied shooters) Penny was getting talent spotted by Boccia England, the national governing body for the sport.
For the 2013/2014 season Penny was asked to join the England B Squad and began training alongside the national team, quickly improving and showing great potential to be promoted to the main England Squad.
Although in constant pain due to her condition causing her to have her back and neck fused – which leaves her with very little movement in her whole spine and neck – Penny pushes pass the discomfort to train and excel in her sport. Prior to a three-hour boccia session every Tuesday Penny travels to Oxford for very painful procedures that leave her drained yet she overcomes that and is often first to arrive at training.
Although now a proud part of the England Squad, Penny is still an active member of SportsAble and during training sessions and league matches she takes charges, helping the younger ones improve their game. Penny also tries to give back to SportsAble where she can. Most recently she and her father secured a donation of £2,000 from two separate Masonic Lodges in Berkshire and Surrey.
Penny deserves recognition for her dedication to sport and for the way in which she battles through life to become a better sportsperson. Her story is an inspirational one and proves that anyone can become an elite athlete if they have the right drive, commitment and support.
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