"I jump into a sand pit for a living"
Stef Reid MBEVerite Sport is delighted that Stef Reid has been awarded an MBE in the New Year honours list. Stuart has known Stef for 5 years and been honoured to watch her in two World Championships. 2 Paralympics and a European Championship plus a host of other competitions.
Stef was a typical sport-mad teenager, particularly playing rugby but also basketball, volleyball and tennis. Then everything changed when she was invited to go out on a boat with friends. She takes up the story: “In Canada they have a thing called tubing where you attach an inner tube to a motor boat. The point is to go very fast and then you fall off and they come back and pick you up. I saw the boat coming in the distance and thought they were coming to pick me up. Too late I realized they had not seen me. The propellers caught me across my lower back”.
On her way to hospital Stef tried to face up to the seriousness of her situation. “I remember lying in the ambulance. I was scared because I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to heaven. I did not know God. I had never asked him what his plan was for my life. I remember praying for a second chance”. She survived – although she sensed at the hospital that the doctors were not sure she would – but at the cost of her right leg which had to be amputated just below the knee. She was thankful and devastated at the same time: “It was a complete miracle that I survived the accident. I know that God had a hand in that. But with my love for sport, I was absolutely devastated at the prospect. The stuff that you love to do, you are told that you cannot do it any more”
I wondered how she looked back on the accident, was she mad at God? “I don’t think I have ever felt mad at God. There are moments when you have little petty parties and tantrums. You are walking on bones that are not meant to have that kind of pressure. Suckers are uncomfortable and you just want to be able to walk down the street without discomfort. So I certainly had moments of frustration but never anger towards God. Despite everything I still know in the back of my head that God is in control and if he could save me from an accident like that, there is not much else that he cannot handle.
“I just believe God’s hand was in it. I don’t have any bitterness towards it. He knew that this was the only way he was going to get my attention. I am thankful that at 16 I learned what was important in life”.
Having an artificial leg, has its lighter side. Once Stef booked a pedicure by telephone and explaining that she only had one foot, asked if it would be half price. No. On arrival at the salon, she explained again but got the same response – “Set price”. Stef accepted defeat but not quite.
“I said, ‘OK. That is fine but I want you to do everything you do to this foot to my other foot.’ I had a fairly new guy and he finished soaking and massaging my left foot, I said ‘Now this one’. I was trying not to lose my nerve when he is feeling like a complete idiot massaging the lifeless foot. After about 5 minutes I had to give it up as I felt bad for him. He did paint the toenails though. I think I made my point. It tickled me. I had a good time”.
On the podium in Rio
Home from Rio with a medal
After winning silver in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics in the long jump, Stef got her gold in the 2017 World Championships in London. She said afterwards: "I have been in this sport since 2006 and it's now 2017 that I am in the middle of the podium... It feels amazing. It has been a long journey. I’m so overwhelmed. It has taken a long time to get there so it is so satisfying to win this gold medal. I didn't want to be the silver girl forever. A lot of athletes never get to do this so I am ever so grateful that I get the chance. I am so thankful to my coach (Aston Moore) who has worked so hard for this and to my training partners.
“It is really satisfying to get the gold medal. It does go to show that if you work hard at something time after again, it will pay off. I was well-prepared and I like to think I put the pressure on early in the competition – I just really enjoyed it out there. I’ve been competing against these girls for a number of years and I think that just made it a lot of fun. I think that has helped me as I have got older, I have enjoyed the competitions more and that has made me a better jumper”.
Photos: IPC and British Athletics