Sunday 27 May 2012

British Citizenship Ceremony.

In January, 2006 I had the great honour of being  made a British Citizen in a ceremony in Chelmsford. Last Wednesday, May 23, I had the great privilege to be asked to be a guest speaker at a Citizenship ceremony held in the very same place, the County Chambers in Chelmsford! It was a very emotional day for me and was a good measure of how far I have come in those six years. I looked at all of the people gathered in the chamber, from countries all over the world, and I could see how proud they felt. Some were a little overwhelmed by their emotions as they took the oath of allegiance and sang the National Anthem. To me, this ceremony is very significant - it is a sort of marriage, a partnership, a relationship that is  binding on both sides. If you were born here then it is, perhaps, difficult to understand the sacrifice it is to exchange the country of your birth for a new one, and I'm sure everyone present had thought long and hard before making their decision, just as I had in my turn.

When it was my turn to speak I spoke about how proud I am to be British and how hard work and commitment can improve things for everyone. I told them that liberty means responsibility. This is a land of hard working people, and even though times are tough in these days of austerity we can all make the effort to make things better.

 As I posed for pictures with the new citizens, and afterwards the officials, I thought of how far I have come since my humble beginnings in Kenya, and I thank God everyday for giving me the opportunity to improve my life. I wish the same for all those people present.

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Wednesday 23 May 2012

Turbulent Times

I'm finally back home with my family after a totally exhausting seven hour train journey from Manchester! However,' let's start at the very beginning', as Julie Andrews once famously sang.

I left Harlow on Sunday May 13 to catch my flight to Zurich from Heathrow Terminal 5. As usual the airport staff were very helpful by checking in my racing chair and wheel bag then taking me to the departure gate to board the plane. The actual flight was fine, just a little bit of turbulence, and we landed in Zurich on time. There is no telling how many miles you may have to walk, run, or fly in pursuit of your dream - just don't give up! 

The people who organise the Swiss Championships are brilliant, and transport was provided to take us to our hotel in Nottweil without us having to struggle with racing wheelchairs and luggage. They also organise transport to and from the meetings. I love racing in Switzerland because you get to compete against the world's best. You get the opportunity to train hard and occasionally enjoy the mountain views. The cycle tracks are so clean and not a bit of glass or litter in sight - I wonder, do they have yobs in Switzerland? I really enjoyed wheeling around Lake Sempachersee. Beautiful!

My first race was the Daniela Jutzeler Memorial race in Pratteln. I was really pleased with my 100m because I did a seasons best time of 17.55, but the 400m was very tough due to a strong side wind but at least it helped me to identify some technique issues that need to be addressed.

The last meeting was held at Nottwil, and I was really pleased when Chantal Petitclerc and Kelly Smith, both legends in wheelchair racing, gave me some great advice on how to improve my pushing technique. They also gave me a lot of encouragement and I felt a lot more confident after their advice, so much so that I knocked a whole six seconds off my time for the 400m from the one I got in Pratteln. My 100m was 17.70 so I feel all in all it was a successful trip.

Straight after my last Swiss race I was off to Zurich for my flight to Manchester via Heathrow to compete in the Paralympic World Cup. The flight to Heathrow was the worst I have ever had to endure. The turbulence was so bad that people were actually screaming, and the man opposite me,   began to pray . I tried to stay calm but at one point I almost phoned my little boy  to say  I loved  him ! I'm glad I didn't because the flight crew got us back on the ground safely. Thank you guys!

After a short wait at Heathrow I boarded my flight to Manchester. I had to laugh when I found it was the same crew, though I have to admit it was a bit of a nervous laugh! Anyway, there was no problem on this flight and we landed with no problems. I had my picture taken with the flight crew (see above).

I did my 100m in the Paralympic World Cup and narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing in 4th place. However I was quite pleased that I had even survived to compete at all! It is not whether you get knocked down,it's whether you get up .... I first competed in Manchester in the very first Paralympic World Cup in 2005, when I represented Kenya. I won a bronze medal in 2007, so I really wanted to do well. Anyway, I did my best.It is also in 2005 Paralympic World Cup that I first met Oscar Pistorius, and we have remained great friends.

Again, my journey back to Harlow was horrible, 7 hours and 3 changes. I finally arrived back at 10pm, totally washed out, so I'm going to have a couple of days off before I resume  training tomorrow after a one day rest. It's just great to be back home. :-)

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Saturday 12 May 2012

Olympic Stadium via Stoke Mandeville.

It has been a very tiring but very rewarding week for me. Last Sunday I  competed in the BWRA Championships at Stoke Mandeville. I was up at the crack of dawn for the long drive through the pouring rain, which didn't bode well for good times. However, when we actually got out onto the track the rain had stopped and  I felt really strong. I managed to get a personal best time of 31.1 secs in the 200m. I am really pleased with that because it shows that all the sweat and hard work have not been for nothing. All those hours out in the bad weather we all seem to be suffering from paid off today, but I feel I have more to give.

On Tuesday it was off to the new Olympic Stadium to take part in the Disability Athletics Challenge. I was going to do the 100m and 400m and as usual before a meeting I felt very nervous, though my nerves were tempered somewhat by the great privilege of having the opportunity to compete in such a great stadium before all the superstars get a chance. Usain Bolt eat ya heart out! My coach, Ken Day, is also good at calming me down and getting me ready for the race.

It was a fantastic experience to wheel myself into the stadium in front of cheering crowds and my heart lifted when I spotted my son, Tim, and Norman in front seats. I did my warm up with the other girls then onto the line to wait for the crack of the starting gun. I always start slowly but I soon started to get into my rhythm and my shoulders were pumping down the track. I could hear Norman and Tim roaring their encouragement as Hannah Cockcroft and me raced neck to neck up the track towards the finish line. I couldn't believe it when I got the silver and I was delighted for Hannah because she became the first person to break a world record in the new Olympic Stadium. I joked with her that I should get a share of that record for pulling her across the line. Lol. A great start but then came the disappointment of 5th place in the 400m. I just felt drained of energy in the last part of the race. No excuses though, and it couldn't spoil my delight coming second, especially as I achieved it in front of my son that I love most in the world. Oh yes, it was my birthday as well.

To round off a special day I was filmed by 'London Tonight' and interviewed by Sally Williams. When we watched it later we thought it came out really well, though Tim cringed at some of his 'baby' pictures being shown, and when he was filmed giving me a kiss at the end. At 11, he's got his teenage surliness early, but I love him to bits. All in all it was one of those days that live forever in the memory.

Typically I was ill on Wednesday but recovered and returned to training with a long road session on Thursday and Friday. Today I did a heavy workout in the gym before returning home to pack my chair and bags for a flight to Zurich tomorrow morning. I will be competing in the Swiss Championships and hopefully I will do well and keep myself in contention for a place in the Team. I don't even get to come home a week on Sunday because it's straight off to Manchester for the Paralympic World Cup. I thank God for the love and support of my family and friends.

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Tuesday 1 May 2012

A Time For Everything Under Heaven.

This is the month that I first came into this world so it's always been an important one for me. This is the month to tie up loose ends, forgive and move on. An ideal month to explore new things and new opportunities. It's a time to pay attention to my thoughts and replace any negativity with positivity. It is a month to get things off my chest. Is my glass half full or half empty? I pray for the strength to face new challenges and to be cautious and adventurous at the same time. It's a VERY busy month of competitions, travelling, filming, appearances,etc. All of this is a blessing and I thank God for everything he has given me. I am blessed every day I awake and that's why I choose to be a blessing to everyone I meet. Smile and appreciate life.

In this period of atrocious and unpredictable weather it has been a real challenge to train outdoors, thunder and lightning, strong winds, and lashing rain, but it has to be done because time waits for no one. Roll on May!!!

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