Week 279 (16 - 22 February 2019)
Having reached the pinnacle of two different sports - cycling and rowing - Rachel Morris is now looking to go one further and add Para Nordic sit-skiing gold to her growing list of achievements.
It has been a rollercoaster journey for the 39-year-old. Morris contracted Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) on her 17th birthday, a condition which causes her persistent and debilitating pain.
However, sport remains a key part of Morris’ life and, shortly after contracting CRPS, she began her Paralympic career as a handcyclist, winning gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. She went on to claim bronze four years later in London, despite being hit by a car during a time trial just two months before the start of the Games.
Ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Morris made the switch to rowing, winning gold in the single sculls. After shoulder surgery forced Morris to stop, she set her sights on a winter challenge. And at this week’s World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Canada, Morris has now become the first woman to represent Great Britain in the event.
"I had never skied before and went and did some sit-skiing in early 2018 and it was amazing,” Morris said to the BBC. “It started to make me feel like I had a sporting future again.
"I then tried Nordic skiing for the first time last November and fell in love with it completely."
Sport has played a key role in Morris’ recovery, both physically and mentally.
"The sport is what kept me going. I know I won't be an elite athlete forever, but I also know that physical activity will always be a big part of my life because it is a way of coping - it's a way of giving me headspace and of dealing with things.
"Being in hospital taught me the extreme highs from being on the podium as a Paralympic champion to the lows of not being able to do anything, even sitting up in bed, because I couldn't use my body to get me up.
"Part of me wondered if I was stupid for wanting to start at the bottom again, but the other part of me was saying it was a great opportunity and I should give it a go and see what happens.”
Rachel Morris is an inspiration to many that sport can and should be a fundamental part of recovery, rehabilitation and maintaining an active lifestyle, whether as an elite athlete or recreationally. She is JTA Communicator of the Week.