Beth Moulam (England) – Retired but still in love with disability sport
In this blog, Beth (Great Britain Boccia Paralympian) reflects on her recent retirement from boccia and writes about her love for all things sport.
Last month I retired from elite sport but already people are asking questions. In fact, questions that are often assumptions. It seems the assumption is that not playing on the international scene means I’m no longer interested in any sport. That boccia is no longer a part of my life. Or that I’m sat at home all day doing nothing and now I’m going to lose my fitness. These assumptions are so far from the truth it’s laughable (to me). I might be retired from the world class programme but I’m still in love with boccia, disability sport, competition, keeping fit, being active, opportunities for all and promoting health and well-being.
First, I’ve loved and lived sport from my earliest age. I wanted to be a Paralympian at 6. I found boccia at 10 and throughout my life I’ve been tried more sports than I can count. For over 17 years I was consumed by playing boccia and competing to the best of my ability. Without doubt my best life moment was going out onto the boccia field of play to compete for GB at the Paralympics in Tokyo (2021). The road to performing on a world class stage is not something that happens overnight, it takes dedication and commitment, resilience and flexibility.
Throughout school and then university I trained whenever I could. And, my training wasn’t just playing on court. There was plenty more; strength and conditioning, working with an elite support team including the psychologist, physios, nutritionist, lifestyle coaches and more. Getting to the top is a life choice, making decisions on a daily basis that will support you to achieve your goal.
In 2016/17 I had a setback in boccia when for medical reasons I could no longer throw a ball. Up until that point I’d worn a dynamic skin suit to given me the edge to control my release. Unfortunately, when I had to stop wearing the skins my body no longer had the physical strength and coordination to pick up a ball, never mind throw it. Who knew when I was prescribed the skinsuit what the outcome would be?
At that point I was happy to stumble across frame running, and in only a short time my competitive streak meant I was entering competitions. And, I even got to compete internationally. The future as a runner looked great, however, when I got re-classified as a BC3 ramp player in boccia, and GB started looking at me seriously I chose to remain in the sport I that was my first love. Mainly because I know frame running is something I will do recreationally for ever, down the street, around the track or on a beach.
In my book everyone can be active and I’d definitely recommend everyone tries a variety of disability sports. Of course, I’ve friends who say sport is not for them, that’s their choice. But, with boccia, frame running, athletics, power chair football, sailing, horse riding, skiing, kurling, table cricket, basketball, rugby and loads more, all with classification, and specific adjustments, there is plenty of choice. Not everyone wants to be, or can be, an elite athlete. Being active might be doing yoga, using a hand bike, playing on a wii or floating in a hydrotherapy pool. Each to his own.
My own life, mental and physical development is a testament to sport. I’m fit and healthy so why would I now just want to sit in my chair and let that wellbeing lapse. I still want the buzz of sport, the cardio effect, the stretching of my body, the good sleep at night and more.
Having witnessed the benefits firsthand I want others with disabilities to have the same opportunities. Through sport I improved my concentration and focus for my studies. I made friends, I increased my self-esteem and confidence. With the frame runner I became breathless for the first time ever. I want to promote that feel good factor, that everyone can experience those gains. In fact, having recently read people with CP are twice as likely to have heart problems as the general population getting active seems essential, and sensible.
I’ve watched and will continue to watch live disability sport when I can. I know first-hand the effort, the hours and the dedication required to get to the top and stay there. I appreciate the skill, the experience, and the supreme strategic and tactical knowledge of those at the top in boccia. I know being at an elite level is more than just time on a show court. It is also about the team behind the athlete and the combined effort to be the best you can be. I applaud this effort and dedication, especially in the light of knowing boccia was not sustainable long term for me on a full-time elite platform.
Boccia, and other sports, have made me who I am. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m physically stronger than ever before. I’ve learned a huge amount about myself and the benefit of having a growth mindset. The wish to have a go, treat life as an adventure and try to always do my best.
So, when I’m invited to talk about being a Paralympian, an AAC user and my dreams I can stand proud and shout about the fantastic opportunity I was awarded through sport. How dreams can come true if you work hard and show resilience. And, how being fit and healthy means an improved quality of life.
I might be retired but I’m still in love with the power of disability sport and what can be achieved. I’ll be continuing to seek out new, and old, thrills. Suddenly I’ve time to ski and I’m looking to ride again.
Each of us can work on reaching our own potential. As individuals we are all unique so whatever we achieve will be different for each of us, but still it should be rewarding. Good luck in finding your own sporting niche and being as active as you can.
Beth has quadriplegic cerebral palsy resulting in using a power chair outside her home. Due to dysarthria; muscle weakness of the mouth, tongue and throat, Beth uses an electronic communication aid. She also has a hearing impairment so wears hearing aids and lip reads.
Boccia is a seated target sport played indoors by athletes with the most complex physical disabilities. A BC3 athlete is unable to throw a ball, they propel the ball using a ramp and have an on court ramp operator. The operator is unable to look into the field of play and must not communicate verbally or non-verbally with the athlete during a match. They move the ramp and equipment under the direction of the athlete.
You can find out more about Beth on her website https://www.bethmoulam.com