PARALYMPIAN gold medal winner Emma Wigg, a former Bognor Regis teacher, has spoken of the amazing support she received after losing the use of her legs.
Team GB canoest Emma, 36, won the highest accolade of her sport in Rio last week. And she has recalled her time at Chichester University and the support she received following the news of her disability.
During her gap year in Australia, Emma contracted a virus that damaged her neurological system, causing paralysis in both her arms and legs. Whilst her arms regained mobility, her legs were left permanently affected.
Despite this life changing event Emma was determined to pursue her chosen career as a PE teacher and, aged 18, she was determined to take up her place at Chichester and gain her degree.
She cites the sporty environment and support systems of the university as big players in her progression towards elite sport and in securing a career in teaching.
Emma studied sports science and gained a PGCE in secondary PE, and then landed a job at the Regis School, in Bognor, whose pupils cheered her success. And she says the university played a big role in her development as an athlete.
She said: “Uni was great for me. Their support at a time when I was newly disabled was incredible and allowed me to get on the teaching path. I learnt loads about myself and such a sporty university gave me back the love I’d missed.”
Emma started her career as a sitting down volleyball player and captained ParalympicsGB at London 2012, then made the transition to para-canoeing. She said: “After London I knew I’d have to change sports if I wanted to experience world class performance sport. It is like a transfer market after a Paralympics and a number of sports were interested. Canoeing came up and I was so impressed with the set-up that when they offered me a place I bit their hand off. It’s been a challenge to master the skills and take my body to new physical limits in the gym.”