In 2012, Carly Tait found herself feeling inspired by the Olympic games in London as I am sure many of you were too. Shortly after the Olympics, Carly found herself feeling even more inspired by the games that followed, the Paralympics.
The Paralympics resonated even stronger with Carly because she has a condition called cerebral palsy, which mainly affects her legs and her coordination. Feeling so inspired by the incredible athletes competing on an elite stage, despite their limitations and conditions, Carly decided there and then to call her friend and convince her to attend the closing ceremony with her.
A few days later and to the tune of several hundred pounds, Carly and her friend headed down to London to attend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But the last thing she expected was what happened following the event. At this time in her life, Carly was 26 years old. She worked in marketing and was a self-confessed party girl. She loved a night out with her friends, she loathed any sort of exercise and she smoked 20 cigarettes per day.
Don’t get me wrong, though; Carly loved her life!
Once inside the stadium, she fixed her eyes on these incredible athletes. Some of them had no arms. Some had no legs. Some of them were blind. Some of them had cerebral palsy. Something struck Carly in this moment. She felt inspired by these people. If they can do something like that, why can’t I? she thought.
She told her friend what she was thinking and her friend laughed and said “Carly, you smoke twenty fags a day and you hate sport!”, reminding her why not! Carly continued watching, deep in thought. “I think I am going to give this a go” said Carly. Yeah, yeah, her friend must have thought.
You can only imagine her friend’s face when Carly declared that in four years’ time she was going to be heading to the next Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro! Once they got back to Manchester, Carly followed up on her comments by seeking out the clubs across the country where she could learn to wheelchair race. There were only five wheelchair racing coaches in the country and fortunately for Carly, one just down the road in Stockport.
True to her word, off she went one Tuesday evening to give it a go. When she got there, she was too overweight to fit in the race wheelchair. She was mortified, as you can imagine. But did that stop her? The coach offered her a standard wheelchair to go around the track in, to get used to the technique. Carly wasn’t over the moon about this but she persisted anyway. She returned to training the following week and kept going until eventually she got in the wheelchair racer and improved each time.
When she got to the point where she was ready to start racing, she had a whole new experience to contend with. She was confronted with the terrifying new feeling of pre-race nerves. If you have ever done anything new in front of an audience, like giving a presentation, you will know exactly how these nerves feel!
Did that stop her? No. And this was the point at which me started working together.
Carly improved and improved. Her times came down and down as she worked harder and harder. She went to the European Championships and won two silver medals putting her in a great position for the upcoming 2016 Paralympics in Rio. In the summer following she was selected to represent Team GB in Rio, realising her (some would say) lofty dream from four years previous.
This story serves to prove that we are capable of much more than we think we are and give ourselves credit for much of the time. It also goes to show the power of having an inspirational role model or influence in our lives, even if it’s just one moment like Carly experienced at the Paralympic Games in 2012.
Footage of me speaking about Carly’s story at a UK conference
What has Carly’s story made you think about?
What could you achieve with the right amount of inspiration?
Keep aiming high,