I never liked watching sports. I’d rather be doing it. When I was young, I tried every sport. Tennis, swimming, ballet, figure skating, rugby, netball - I did them all. When I finally found basketball I knew it was the one. It’s the best sport ever.
My sporting hero was Michael Jordan. Although I’d say that I’m more similar to Dennis Rodman when I’m playing. Serena Williams, too. I’ve been compared to her a few times, looks-wise and also for my tenacity for sport.
I played for Wales and represented GB. In summer 2019 I went to the European Championships. I was getting loads of offers from teams in countries like Serbia and Italy. I was planning on finishing college and going to the United States to play. Then I had surgery that went wrong.
I went into hospital on Friday the 13th. It was meant to be a routine operation. They thought everything had gone well at first, but there was a problem with the blood flow in my leg. I had five surgeries in the space of two weeks. I was 16 years old. It was a tough time.
The pain wasn’t normal pain. It’s neurological pain, and to this day I struggle to explain to people how bad it is. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t watch Netflix. It got to the point where I could barely understand what people were saying. The pain isn’t as bad now, but it’s still there. I’ve just got used to coping.
God had a plan for me. I always knew I wouldn’t have a normal life. I knew I’d have a lot of success and greatness. I thought basketball would take me there, but He had another plan.
Disability sport opened a new door. I was introduced to Anthony Hughes [coach, athlete and key figure in the development of Para sport in Wales, who died in 2022]. I was still mentally vulnerable, but I thought I can’t just be crying to myself while doing nothing. I met my coach Josh on the same day. Immediately they said, ‘Right, it’s shot put and discus.’ I’m a huge girl: I’m 6ft tall and … well, I’m not going to tell you my weight! But the obvious option is throwing.
I didn’t know how good I was. I would have gone to the Commonwealth Games if I’d known! But coming from a team sport into a singular sport, you have to gauge what level you are. Anthony knew that I would become a success. Soon after he passed away, and things started happening for me, I thought, ‘Yeah, he called it.’
My first World Championships didn’t go well. I finished sixth in discus and fourth in shot put. I missed out on a medal by 20cm. What was so annoying is that I knew I could do better. So I’m working towards the Paralympics [Paris 2024]. I hope this time I’ll perform at my best regardless of whether I get a medal. If I don’t, I can’t be upset. I’ll have been doing this for just over two years, and I could be a Paralympian. Who can complain about that? And I’m only 20 years old, so there’s plenty more to come.
You hear incredible stories in disability sport. It’s crazy. You could write a book about people’s stories and they’d all be different. Even if their disabilities are the same, they might not have affected that person in the same way. Everyone’s journey is different.
Disability sport is really strong here. Disability Sport Wales have done a great job of making it a known thing. It’s had a profound effect in Wales and helped a lot of disabled people. It can be very hard growing up with any kind of disability, you may be the only one in your school. But being around other people like you, the social aspect can be huge.
I became a model by accident. I was insecure growing up, being a big black woman in Wales. You don’t get many of us. I didn’t feel attractive or pretty, to say the least. I was in Nando’s, minding my own business, when I noticed a man staring at me. We were getting up to leave and he got up at the same time. I thought, ‘I’ve never been in a fight before and I really don’t want to start now.’ But the man said, ‘I’m with a model agency. You and your friend have exactly the kind of look that we’re looking for.’ He’s now my agent, and I’ve been modelling ever since.
If you’re loving your job you can’t complain. The athlete lifestyle is what I’ve been looking forward to. It’s an honour. I’ve been through the most stressful years of my life, and I don’t want to stress myself again. I’m having fun. Success is just a plus.