So in true style I had made a plan for post operation, of course I knew my wrist would be out of action, meaning transferring, wheeling my chair, driving etc would all be ‘different’ I just hadn’t planned for how different….

Waking up in recovery was bizarre, the last thing I remembered was the anaesthetist asking what my favourite drink was before saying ‘I’ve just given you a bottle, have a nice sleep’.  I was groggy and felt sick but managed to ask how it had gone and was chuffed to bits to hear ‘no wires’.  The surgeon had expected to have to use wires which would then have to be removed in another operation, so hearing that we had ‘got away’ with no wires sent my brain speeding into ‘well that’s amazing, must mean a shorter rehab and I’ll probably be back on the water in a couple of weeks…’, before I drifted off again into a woozy sleep.

We left hospital the next day with a huge bandage but positive about getting on the rehab road.  It dawned on me as we returned home that life was suddenly very different, I couldn’t get myself out the car, I couldn’t wheel my chair or transfer myself onto the sofa, the bed or a chair and worst of all I had to be lifted onto the toilet. Mortified I asked to be left alone and struggled for a good 10 minutes to think of a way to get my trousers down with one working limb, while keeping my balance on the loo….I couldn’t and probably the first time in nearly 20 years as I called for help I felt ‘disabled’.

I’ve been so lucky in my life since disability to have opportunities to prove myself, to show my disability doesn’t define me and that I can do so much more than people might think.  I’ve done things I never could have dreamt of and achieved things alongside those I love that might have seemed impossible. My journey has always been about proving what I can do and highlighting abilities not disabilities so to suddenly find myself unable to do the most basic tasks myself was brutal.

This isn’t supposed to be a poor me blog, far from it, but I need to set the scene for how life impacting this thankfully short period has been. It took me by surprise, I had assumed that I would just manage, that we would find a way for me to be independent, but we couldn’t, there just wasn’t a way to manage on my own.  Hopefully this blog can highlight how our own mindset can define not just how we act but how we feel and how we live. I needed to find a rehab mindset and apply the principles I had started to become good at in my everyday life as an elite athlete to my everyday life where I was feeling anything but an athlete…

Time went on and after 4 long weeks I was able to use my elbow to transfer myself onto the loo! It was like a milestone!  Normally only satisfied with taking chunks of seconds off or adding big weights on I was telling everyone that I could pull my own pants down and transfer onto the loo!  We had managed to keep the mobility scooter (thanks to @Bromakin) so I was back in the training environment with my teammates albeit just doing rehab I was back in the surroundings I loved and it was now I needed to find the right mindset to keep the fears, doubts and emotions at bay while encouraging my teammates as they made the progress I only wished I could and to keep the belief that I could and would be an athlete again.

I had good days and bad days and like I’ve learned in my sporting career over the last few years its about managing and minimising the bad and giving myself the best opportunities for more good. My staff team and I worked out our plan which didn’t look too bad at all. Back on the water by end of October and back working on strength by January.  I was chuffed! That was an outlook I could fully get behind. We worked out what we could work on while injured and identified a couple of things which would be ‘nice to haves’, things that a normal training year doesn’t allow for but things that could make a performance impact and off we went, working hard on the sessions and keeping my mind as positive as possible.

Our visit to the surgeon after 6 weeks changed things, he announced it would be another 10-12 weeks before we could load properly through the wrist or apply any unexpected forces. I was devastated, I’d even got my winter water kit out ready at home for my return to the water. It was not the news we had wanted but we always knew rehab journeys are unpredictable and we had to follow his advice to protect the slightly different repair he had done. The good news was he was happy with the surgery but it was just up to us to not ruin it now and set us back.

Back to the drawing board with new time scales and an adapted gym programme using forearm straps to load through what had become my tiny right arm and shoulder (I’ll never understand how muscle mass takes so long to gain and is so quick to lose!). I was still struggling with having to ask for so much help and feeling ‘disabled’ again all these years later but after chatting with my sports psychologist & a brilliant Olympic athlete, who had also been injured, I had a new found mindset, that I knew would power me through these next few months……we had been dealt a hand of cards, ones that we didn’t want, that weren’t ideal, but they were the cards we had.  WE just needed to now play them in the best way we could, even throwing in the odd trump or joker as we go! I’d better get practicing my left hand dealing #Onwards #CanoeCardShark

I’ve always been a big planner, never happier than when I’ve got a plan to follow, albeit I’m happy to adapt it and be flexible as needed….as long as there’s another plan to implement!

As an athlete you always have a plan about what you want to achieve and how you will go about it.

Matt (my coach) and myself had a plan for 2018… get bigger, get stronger & make the boat faster!

And we did, we worked tirelessly all winter smashing out gym sessions, battling the harsh weather on the water and eating anything not nailed down and we got faster… faster than either of us thought we could. The racing season started in May and we unexpectedly broke the world record in both boats (thanks partly to a large tailwind), smashing the 49sec barrier and becoming the fastest women in the world ever in the kayak!

We’d hit a peak earlier than expected and tried to build on this through the season until the main goal, the World Championships in late August.  We’d won two World Cup golds, two European golds, we’d broken the world’s fastest times in both boats, we were flying.

Photo Credits: Vekassy ICF

And then the plan went wrong… we had an accident in the gym.  Accidents happen but when they are avoidable it’s frustrating, it’s devastating, you blame yourself for that moment of complacency that derails your plan and can send you spiralling into despair.

My wrist was damaged, really damaged, a subluxed bone and ruptured ligaments, just before the competition we’d been aiming for and working towards all year. It threw me, a mix of emotions and self-obsessed pity – ‘why me?’ ‘I’ve worked so hard?’ ‘this is so unfair?’ – but surrounded and supported by the right people we made a new plan and headed off in a slightly different direction.

The injury was what it was… we couldn’t turn back the clock, we couldn’t undo the accident, but we could choose to make the most of it.

We accessed the best surgeon and sought the best advice, I couldn’t wheel my wheelchair or transfer pain free but bizarrely I could paddle my boat. The surgeon said we couldn’t do any more damage, so we decided to carry on, to learn as much as we could about preparing to perform on the world stage with an injury and knowing we weren’t quite as fit as we would have liked to be.

Photo Credits: Vekassy ICF

We would get the surgery to get it fixed after the World Champs. Athletes rarely always line up at 100% so the chance to practice and learn from the experience was too valuable to miss.

My teammates were amazing, supporting me and helping me in the usually stressful last few days before competition. The banter about the mobility scooter I was now forced to use helped keep the mood light. My focus was now about thriving in this situation and being the best athlete I could.  My teammates Charlotte & Jeanette had been pushing me all year with us grabbing the gold & silver at every major competition – no mean feat given the progression of our fast-moving sport.

So, as I lined up I knew it would be the toughest races of my life, but line up I did, confident that I had battled the demons of self-doubt that rise their ugly heads when injury strikes, having conquered the fear of what might or might not happen and totally relaxed and focussed on delivering the best 200m I could.

And that’s exactly what I did. I couldn’t have imagined being able to feel that relaxed and ready when we were faced with the injury news a week earlier, but I did and I was taking home – with a silver & gold medal tucked in my bag – a horrifically painful wrist but a huge smile of pride as I travelled back to face the unknown as we headed into surgery….

Emma Wiggs MBE, Paralympic Gold Medallist and six-time World Championship Paracanoeist, has been nominated for the National Lottery Athlete of the Year Award 2018 in recognition of her outstanding sporting success alongside her work outside of competition.

The annual National Lottery Awards look to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded projects, celebrating the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with National Lottery funding. New this year is the Athlete of the Year category, which is a chance to celebrate the outstanding achievements of National Lottery funded athletes, whilst demonstrating the impact of National Lottery players on elite sport.

Emma has been shortlisted following a phenomenal 2017 season, in which she overcame a series of injuries to have her most successful year of racing. She became the undisputed world leader for KL2 paracanoe, holding the British, World, European and Paralympic titles – the first canoeist to do so. Emma also won the World title in the fastest ever recorded time for a female racer and since then, has become double European Champion following another major title win in June 2018.

Emma’s sporting achievements saw her being nominated in the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year awards; awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Chichester for her contribution to the sport and in recognition of her former career as a teacher; and an MBE for her Services to Canoeing.

Emma has also been shortlisted because of her work as a leading advocate of clean sports, for which she was nominated by the UK Anti-Doping Agency to attend the institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations internal athletes and leaders’ event as a panel member, the only British athlete to do so.

How to vote

The Athlete public vote runs from 1 August 2018 to 14 September 2018 and winners will receive a £5,000 cash prize to give to a National Lottery funded project of their choice, feature on the BBC One broadcast and take home a trophy.

You can vote for Emma in three ways:

  1. Online by clicking here and entering a valid email address or social media log-in (only one vote per email address or social media account is permitted per category)
  2. Telephone – call 0844 836 9731 (Emma’s dedicated phone number). Calls cost 5p but please be advised that connection charges may be applied by some networks, so please check with your provider.
  3. Twitter – Emma has her own unique hashtag, #NLAEmma, for the duration of the campaign. Anyone who tweets this hashtag or retweets a post containing this hashtag will register a vote.

Only one vote per account is allowed. Furthermore votes may not count from accounts with one or more of the following attributes:

  • Less than 10 followers
  • A poor follower to following ratio
  • No profile picture
  • Posts from bot accounts/clients

Show your support for Emma and get voting now!

Emma Wiggs is a Para-canoeist and Great British Meat Company ambassador who has had a quite phenomenal 12 months which has seen her retain the British, European and World Championship titles. Along with her Gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, this means she currently has the distinction of being a Grand Slam champion, a rarity in modern sport, and puts her amongst the greats of British sporting heroes, including athletics’ Sir Mo Farah and swimming’s Adam Peaty.

“I’ve found swapping from supermarket meat to quality meats from Great British Meat Company means I can ensure I’m getting brilliant quality protein by weight without the worry of losing it through water in cooking.”

In addition to her phenomenal success as an athlete, Emma is also a Youth Sport Trust athlete mentor and is committed to ensuring that the next generation of talented young athletes appreciate the importance of quality nutritional to give them a competitive edge. We recently spoke to Emma about what it takes to fuel such competition excellence.

What is a typical day training for you?

I train 6 days a week so its pretty hectic. During the winter months there is more focus on gym work to build lean muscle and strength and then as we approach the racing season towards in the Spring I look at transferring this new strength onto the water. I generally always have 3-4 training sessions in a day so fuelling well throughout the day is vital.

What do you eat on a typical training day?

  • Breakfast 1 – porridge with berries and nuts
  • Breakfast 2 – eggs, chicken/steak spinach and seed bread
  • Lunch 1 – Chicken Breast and rice or Lean Chilli and rice
  • Lunch 2 – Tuna and oatcakes or Yoghurt and protein
  • Supper – Lean Meat and lots of veggies with either potatoes or rice
  • Bedtime snack – yoghurt with almond butter and berries

I try to hit high levels of protein to help build lean muscle but the crucial thing is getting enough carbs in the winter alongside lean quality proteins to ensure I have an energy surplus.

What do you typically eat on a non-training/cheat day?

I sometimes find it hard to eat on a rest day (a Sunday) as I’ve been so strict trying to get all food in during the week, but I do try to keep up the regime of eating every couple of hours. I do have the occasional treat which would maybe be a homemade pizza or sometimes coffee and a cake if I’m out somewhere. Generally I’m pretty good all year round but I will admit to having more treats in the regeneration period in September.

What meal do you eat most often?

Probably chilli made with lean beef mince and rice. I do however eat chicken in some form everyday too! I’ve found swapping from supermarket meat to quality meats from Great British Meat Company means I can ensure I’m getting brilliant quality protein by weight without the worry of losing it through water in cooking.

What is your favourite meal?

Roast dinner of any kind! Lots of veggies and a good homemade gravy. I’m also really keen on a steak and often have one Friday nights as something to look forward to after a brutal day on the water.

Is what you eat essential to your training and recovery?

Completely essential!! I’ve been an elite athlete for quite a few years now but I’ve seen a real difference in my gains from the gym in the last few year when I’ve started to take nutrtion really seriously. I firmly believe that good diet and proper recovery is not only essential for performance but also general health and wellbeing, I’ve not had a cold for a couple of years now so touch wood the better diet is doing something right!

How do you stay motivated?

I think it’s vital to have the belief that you can improve and get better in whatever you are doing. I can’t control my opposition and how they perform but I can control my effort, my attitude and my performance on a daily basis. It motivates me that I know I believe I can be faster, stronger and better than I am now and that drives me on!

How do you like to relax?

I love to have a pyjama day at home. I think it probably sounds boring to some but I crave a quiet day at home after 6 days full on pushing myself in sessions and constantly eating! I also enjoy taking our dog for walks and having breakfast out!

What are the goals you are aiming for?

As always I’m aiming to be faster and stronger than last year. It’s only year 2 of the next cycle on the road to Tokyo 2020 so we are still in a building phase where we are trying to get as strong and big as possible while tweaking technical aspects. So I won’t be expecting any super fast times this year but I know it’s all part of a process and it will come! One thing is for sure 2018 will be exciting!

Follow Emma on Twitter @emwiggsy and Instagram @emmawiggs