The Joys of Sport
Market Insight 08 February 2024 08 February 2024
UK & Europe
Member of our Amputation subject matter group and Partner, Ruth Graham, conducts an insightful interview with Paralympian Julie Rogers on the many benefits of sports for individuals with limb differences.
Ruth Graham brings a deeply personal perspective to her work, her interest ignited by her mother's own journey. A fervent sports enthusiast, Ruth's mother embraced life as an amputee, seamlessly transitioning into a lifestyle filled with activities like swimming, dancing, and more.
Through her legal practice, Ruth has encountered numerous claimants who have not only reclaimed their pre-amputation aspirations but surpassed them, scaling mountains, conquering adventure courses, and embracing various sports. Ruth firmly believes that being an amputee should never hinder one's ability to enjoy a diverse range of physical activities, recognizing the invaluable physical and psychological rewards they offer. Julie Rogers epitomizes this ethos.
Born with hemimelia, a congenital condition necessitating amputations at ages two and five, Julie Rogers identifies herself as an individual who has harnessed the transformative power of sports to enhance her mobility and well-being. Inspired by Julie's resilience and achievements, Ruth and her team were honored to delve into Julie's remarkable journey.
During the interview, they explored the supportive environments that have propelled Julie to excel across various sporting domains. Julie's athletic prowess was evident early on, as she made her Paralympic debut at London 2012 as the youngest member of the sitting volleyball team at just 12 years old. Alongside her athletic pursuits, Julie achieved academic success, obtaining her degree in economics in 2020. Currently, Julie dedicates herself to full-time training, aiming to secure her spot in her third Paralympic Games in Paris, where she aspires to compete in the 100m sprint and shotput events (T63 category).
Read on for the full interview below:
What does a typical week look like for you?
I am currently in a winter training block, which essentially means I am following an intense training program to get myself in the best condition for the 2024 competition season. This means I am at the indoor athletics centre six days a week, for a combination of technical, strength and mobility work. My routine is pretty repetitive but purposeful in consistency – and there are a few non-negotiables to set myself up for the tone of the day. I support myself as an athlete through various media opportunities so I sometimes switch the week up and train in various locations to facilitate this.
The joy of sport, what does it mean to you?
The many benefits of sport at all levels, elite, leisure and recreation are no secret and smart people will continue to explore the relationship of the body and mind which is so exciting. My joys and reasons are quite individual to me. My father owned a mix Martial Arts Academy, my brother was a natural talent in most sports and I loved challenges to solve from a younger age. My first physical challenge just happened to be how I would get out of my cot like my twin brother when I was yet to be tall enough for a prosthetic. The single leg squat (at age two) is just one of the many exercises my dad encouraged me to do to strengthen for independence. This meant that when I was at the right ‘build height' I was walking on my prosthetic leg straight away. Immediately, my physicality which would probably be perceived as a massive limitation at that time was not, as I had found my own methods and adaptations through training to live a normal childhood. Sport throughout the ages has given me an embodied goal to apply my relative strength and mobility, the joy comes from continuing to improve in what I do. I love a cute coloured graph and data to show personal progression. What cannot be measured though is the want to perform at major championships and compete against the best in the world. I also like to be… the best I can be. These opportunities have been priceless in developing the character I am today. My amputation has been no barrier whatsoever to my sporting achievements.
Why did you get into sport?
Coming from a sporty family meant being happy and healthy was always encouraged. I isolated myself from mainstream sports between the ages of around eight to ten but was then encouraged to try disability sport. My mother strongly supported my training at that time for more holistic reasons. I suppose my family could see my confidence had recoiled as I had quit martial arts, swimming and gymnastics. I was welcomed into disability sport and it encouraged me to achieve. The Paralympic Games was not on my radar at that time, but my training efforts did mean that at age 11 I was valued enough amongst the GB women's team to be taken to Cairo, Egypt for my first international cup. I think my mother could see the power of sport and its benefits way before me, which is why she selflessly took me to all the (not very local) training sessions. I was sadly a little girl who legitimately thought for too long that I was the only one ‘like this.’ Paralympic legacy, social media, connected communities online etc did not exist at that time. However, I had met a diverse range of athletes in volleyball and I loved the effort exertion in training and ultimately competing against other teams.
What do you see are the benefits of sport for amputees in particular?
Sport is for everyone. Being as active as your capacity allows should be a priority for all because of the undoubted physical and mental benefits. Not only has general training been a successful rehabilitation method for many acquired amputees but it can also indisputably enrich many aspects of your life. A very important disclaimer is that performance training makes up a very small percentage of the sporting world. Your goal may be to join a team and socialise in a friendly space, complete a lap of the field with your dog or keep up with the kids in the park. Consistency, discipline and a positive attitude will allow your growth, keep you healthy and enable you to become an accomplished prosthetic user.
What advice do you have for other amputees?
My recommendations would be as follows;
- Step one, identify your goals. When you are clear as to why you are doing something and truly want it, you are more likely to do what you have got to do!
- Step two is to find what works for you, what kind of training (physio, strength and conditioning, sport, activity, dancing, cycling, hill climbing etc) complements your body and offers progression towards those goals.
- Step three, get your gear on and do it.
Find out what local clubs are near you. If you require accessibility or adaption reach out to Associations that can help. The Limbless Association provide a great hub for amputees for general advice and support, as well as holding events that provide the chance to try out adaptive sports.
Perseverance and determination are important but just trying a sport of your own choice is extremely rewarding and I cannot overemphasise the benefits. There is a range of sports and activities out there, no matter where you are in your stage of amputee life. Hopefully this year I will make it to Paris as part of Paralympics GB and be part of the team showcasing a range of sports at the highest level.
We would like to thank Julie for her time and wish her all the best in her quest to represent Team GB in Paris this Summer.