Wiggs: “Plan the Paddle, Paddle the Plan”
Interview: Emma Wiggs
Northampton Academy were truly honoured to welcome Paralympian Emma Wiggs into the school to deliver workshops to a group of very fortunate year 11 boys, and during lunchtime, the school’s Sports Journalism Team jumped at the opportunity to interview Emma in an organised press conference. Emma is a Paralympic gold-medallist and five-time world champion as a paracanoeist, and was very gracious in responding to the media.
To fittingly kick off the interview, the journalists asked Emma where her career began for her. She recalled having a “very sporty childhood”. Emma and her twin brother were always outdoors, trying a variety of activities. Then she contracted a virus that impaired the mobility of her lower limbs.
After taking a break from sport and pursuing a teaching career, she had the opportunity to trial a host of Paralympic sports at a Team GB talent day in 2010, and fell in love with sitting volleyball. She later captained Team GB to a bronze medal in the London 2012 Olympics. After the Games, Emma embarked on what she described as her “biggest challenge” – taking up paracanoeing. After being inspired by rower Sir Steve Redgrave who spent “20 years being the best” in the business, she tried balancing training and part-time teaching. However, her will to push herself to her “absolute limits” prompted her move to full-time training.
In the run up to the Olympics, Emma said she trains six days per week. Now that is a lot of training! So how does she stay motivated? Well, Emma sees everything as a choice, rather than a sacrifice. She believes she is lucky to have the opportunity to be a Paralympian, and therefore it’s only right to grasp it with both hands. She admitted that training can get in the way of a typical person’s lifestyle, but that it’s all worth it in the end.
Emma branded her gold medal as her biggest achievement, and it was a surreal moment when she was told that she could achieve incredible success in the Paralympics. Just shows, anything is possible.
The press conference oozed inspiring messages…
“We are not defined by our disability; we are defined by what we are doing.”
And Emma’s extremely humble, yet ferociously determined attitude is something that everyone can learn from.
Within four weeks of Emma returning from Rio, training has already started to prepare her for Tokyo, where she hopes to bring back the shiny 495-gram disc of gold and retain her title. She’ll try to “make the boat faster every year”. And if she manages this, then, well, anything is possible!
By Matthew Bates