Friendship and Personal Growth from the 2018 CPISRA World Games
Olivia Gallagher, T33 Wheelchair Racer, and Fabienne Andre, S8 Swimmer and T34 Wheelchair Racer, didn’t know each other before the 2018 CPISRA World Games. Since then, they have grown as good friends and are supporting each other to reach their inspirational sporting goals.
Written by Olivia Gallagher and Fabienne Andre
The CPISRA World Games creates so many incredible opportunities across a wide range of sports for individuals progressing to the next level, and also in showcasing the wide range of accessible sports and success of athletes with Cerebral Palsy. Not only do the World Games create sporting opportunities they also lead to incredible friendships and opportunities to progress and try new sports for the athletes that take part. Here is the story of Fabienne Andre and Olivia Gallagher.
Both Olivia and Fabienne had different journey’s to the CPISRA World Games and little did they know that it would be at this event in August 2018 that their paths would cross thanks to CPISRA, and that this would lead on to incredible friendships and a whole new range of opportunities.
Olivia’s Journey: “Back in 2014 it was difficult to find sporting activities to cater for all my disabilities and I struggled to know where I fitted in, therefore my personal confidence was very low at the time. I had been inspired by attending the Paralympic Games in 2012. My journey in wheelchair racing began when I attended a taster session at Weir Archer Academy. Initially I found it very challenging to be able to push the racing chair in a straight line, and at my first competition I went from lane 1 to lane 8. In 2015 I got classified as a T33 wheelchair racer and then in September 2015 after attending the CP Sport events, I won ‘Most Improved Under 20 Female of the Year’. Since then I haven’t looked back and I have continued to climb UK and World Rankings year by year. At the CPISRA World Games in 2018, I won a silver and bronze in the 200m and 400m. The whole experience was incredible, new friends were made, new lessons were learnt and what an honour it was to race for England.
With the support of the Weir Archer Academy I have gained more confidence both mentally and physically. Over the years I have learnt to accept that having a disability doesn’t define who you are it’s a strength of determination to succeed. DON’T SEE DISABILITY AS A BARRIER IT SHOULDN’T STOP YOU FROM ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS”
Fabienne’s Journey: “In August 2018 I represented my country for the first time having been selected to form part of the CP England Swim team at the CPISRA World Games in Sant Cugat, Spain. It was incredible to go to the next level in swimming representing my country, gaining 3 Silvers and 1 Bronze in the four events that I competed in.
The Cerebral Palsy World Games was an amazing opportunity in itself but in so many other ways too; through all the people I met that formed Team CP England. It was incredible to meet so many people like me but also see there are so many other sports out there to try. We stayed together as a team and were able to socialise in down time and watch other sports when not competing.
Not only did I meet many new swimmers but I also met lots of other people doing a wide range of sports. I shared a room with a legend – Sophie Taylor, who I felt very lucky to share with. Why, because she knew almost everyone… Being a para triathlete means that she knew those on the track and in the pool so I was introduced to many of the track athletes too.
It would be fair to say that Sophie and I got on very well and talked all things Triathlon which sparked an interest in considering my next challenge following the Cerebral Palsy World Games.”
Meeting new people lead to many great friendships for everyone at the games, particularly for both Olivia and Fabienne and also opened up incredible opportunities that the girls would least expect.
So here’s how and when Olivia and Fabs paths first crossed. It all came down to one photo and one afternoon socialising with other athletes in some down time before the closing ceremony. It’s fair to say they got on pretty well from the start with one thing very much in common, they love to chat, and have become great friends as a result!
Having seen Wheelchair racing at the Games, Fabienne was keen to try it out and when Olivia confidently suggested meeting up at a track competition, Fabienne was only too keen and saw it as a great opportunity to meet up with Olivia again and see many new friends made at the Games do what they do best. This inspired Fabienne to try wheelchair racing and it was again Olivia who invited her to come and have a trial at the Weir Archer Academy.
In October, Fabienne went down to the Weir Archer Academy to give Wheelchair Racing a try and it would be fair to say that after one training session and meeting the amazing Weir Archer Family she was hooked and needed to find a way of training with them as often as she could alongside swimming. “I felt Privileged to have been offered the opportunity to train with them as often as I was able and thanks to CPISRA and Olivia for organising for me to try it out, it became the start of a new journey and an incredible friendship.”
Olivia and her family were a great support for Fabs and their friendship grew. Alongside everyone at the Weir Archer Academy and of course the incredible Jenny Archer MBE and coaches too she began her first season.
Following on from the their amazing success at the World Games, Olivia was awarded Pride of Sport Young Sportsperson of the Year 2018: “What I have achieved in 2018 was more then I expected and made all those hurdles of challenges become worth while.” And Fabienne too achieved recognition in being awarded the Swim England South East Disabled Participant of the Year 2018 and ‘Against All Odds’ Achievement Award at the Argus Community Star Awards 2018.
6 Months from Fabienne beginning training alongside Olivia and Weir Archer Academy Athletes, very exciting news came for them both (alongside two other WAA athletes). They were selected by British Athletics to compete at the Muller Anniversary Games in July 2019 – less than a year on from CP Worlds.
For both to have this incredible experience together, alongside 4 others who had been at the CPISRA 2018 World Games (including Sophie Taylor), was incredible and a great showcase of the importance of the CPISRA events in both supporting athletes to reach the next level in sport but also opening up opportunities of trying new sports and so much more like the amazing friendships.
At the Anniversary Games Olivia was the first T33 in the T33/34 100m in a new PB time and Fabienne the second T34 to the World Record Holder for her category, also in a new PB time. The Anniversary Games were televised and had huge crowds too. Olivia said: “Ever since watching London 2012 I have always wanted to race in the London Olympic stadium, I thought to myself this is going to take ages but little did I think seven years after starting my journey I’d get the opportunity to race there.” Both girls said; “The stadium was amazing. To do this with family and friends watching was amazing and most definitely wouldn’t have been possible without their support.”
Overall an incredible experience for them both which wouldn’t have happened or been possible for either of us if it wasn’t for the incredible opportunity created by CPISRA holding the World Games last August. Little did we know the opportunities and incredible friendships that would be formed thanks to CPISRA. Both Fabienne and Olivia are excited to take any opportunities that come their way and will continue training hard and having fun in working towards reaching the highest level in the sport.