Powerlifter Louise Sugden competed at London 2012 and saw a nation awaken to the ability of para-athletes, writes Milly McEvoy of Sportsbeat.
As the Multi-Sport Games return to England 10 years later in the form of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the 37-year-old believes he may have a similar legacy.
Since the Paralympic Games in London, Sugden has transitioned from wheelchair basketball to para powerlifting and enjoys shining a light on what is possible for people with disabilities.
This summer, England’s squad, backed by National Lottery funding, will include over 400 athletes in total, and after securing his place in the squad, Sugden is looking to capitalize on the opportunity to win medals. in his country of origin.
“I feel like London made people realize that people with disabilities didn’t just play sports, they were actually quite good at it,” explained the Newbury star, who is one of the more than 1,100 elite athletes funded by the UK National Sports Lottery. World-class program, allowing them to train full-time, have access to the best coaches in the world and benefit from state-of-the-art technology, science and medical support.
“It wasn’t just a pity thing. It was a wow, they are good. And I think the Paralympics have never had this kind of exposure before where people realize that para-athletes work really hard, and they’re actually elite at what they do.
“And I think that was the change with London, people just hadn’t really seen parasport before. And what the London 2012 organizers did so well was fill the stadiums, but not with random people, people were really looking forward to it.
“That was one of my favorite things about it, it was that buzz around the Paralympics, as well as the Olympics.
“From what I’ve seen Birmingham are doing a very good job of involving school children. I think it’s fantastic.
“I think it will only do good things for world sport and parasport at the same time, so I think that’s the kind of legacy they’re building at the moment.”
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Sugden hopes sharing his story will inspire others to get involved in the sport and turn their dreams into reality.
In a sport like para-powerlifting, Sugden not only challenges the stereotype of what people with disabilities can do, but also women.
Sugden admits that the women who inspired her when she was younger were mentally strong, but physically strong women were rare.
Now the 2018 Gold Coast silver medalist just has to look to other women in her heavyweight class for inspiration.
She added: “The standard in my weight class, in particular, is huge compared to what it used to be. As an example of my first world championships, I lifted 96 kilos and finished 10th.
“Next, I lifted 120 kilos and finished seventh. So, I lifted over 20 pounds more and only moved up the rankings.
“It shows you the progress in the sport, especially on the women’s side of the sport and now my weight class is so tight.
“I mean, it’s a big challenge in competitions. I could win a medal or I could finish fifth or sixth. It just adds a little more excitement to it.
“I think more and more women are getting into strength sports, which is fantastic. I like this. Don’t be afraid to be strong as a woman.
“I think it’s a real progression that I’ve seen over the last few years, and it’s celebrated a lot more than it would have been before.”
But for Sugden, who won Paralympic bronze at Tokyo 2020, being an inspired strong woman is secondary to inspiring strong women.
“If I can inspire a young woman to step into the gym and find out how strong she can be, then I feel like I’ve done what I want to do,” Sugden said.
“I don’t want people to limit themselves because I never thought I would be as strong as I am now.
“And being that strong, and getting the message out to people that being strong is pretty cool and especially to young women.
“I think that’s a good message and something I really want to try to get across as much as possible.”
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