Nobody had ever written a manual on how to train for a Paralympic Games during a pandemic – so British swimmer Suzanna Hext decided to put together her own fitness programme.
Two weeks into the first lockdown in April came the news that the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo was to be postponed, so the 32-year-old moved back to her parents’ home in Cornwall and got down to some serious work.
“I got extremely creative, my parents’ living room was changed into a gym and my brother adapted a rowing machine for me, which was very much appreciated,” Hext told Sky News.
“I started swimming in the creek just below the land that my family farm. I was swimming up and down and my mum would bring a book and read while I kept going.”
Hext suffered terrible injuries in a horse riding accident the day before the London Olympics in 2012 and has been wheelchair-bound ever since.
“It was a day that changed my life forever really. It was July 26th 2012 and I kind of felt that my world had fallen apart at that time.
“I was breaking in a young horse and it reared up, threw me off, landed on me and then rolled back on me, just to add insult to injury. I’m very lucky to still be here today.”
Hext was left with devastating injuries that included spinal damage, head injuries, a shattered pelvis and a crushed shoulder.
She spent months bed-bound in hospital and endured countless operations, but never gave up hope that one day she would ride again.
Her ambition now is to represent Team GB at consecutive Paralympic Games in two different disciplines, swimming and dressage.
“Oh my God that would be a complete dream come true! Even thinking about it makes me smile. Tokyo is the main aim for 2021 for swimming and then hopefully, fingers crossed, I can get to Paris in 2024 in dressage.”
Hext has had practical support this year from her friend, 20-time champion jockey Sir AP McCoy, who offered her use of his outdoor pool when England’s gyms and leisure facilities were forced to close.
“I think AP has a similar mentality to me in terms of being very dedicated to his sport and determined to never let his accidents and injuries along the way hold him back.
“It was incredible to be able to keep swimming and I’m very grateful to AP and his wife Chanelle for helping me with my training.”
Hext will be in the pool in Japan in 2021 representing her country at the Paralympics and says if anything, 2020 has made her even more determined to come home with gold.
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