In between training and exploring Cornwall with her two whippets, paratriathlete Melissa Reid finds time to sit down and have a chat with us about life before and after winning bronze at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Last year we saw the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics whiz by in a blur of outstanding achievements and breathtaking ceremonies. And while Britain achieved truly staggering results, here in Cornwall we were holding a collective breath for local Cornish paratriathlete Melissa Reid, who walked away from her first Paralympics with a bronze medal. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Melissa about her time growing up in Cornwall but I was cautious of taking up too much of her valuable time, as training for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is a full-time task!
Growing up in Cornwall, Melissa was surrounded by the sea. But much to my surprise she was not always comfortable with the water. “My love of water took a long time to grow,” begins Melissa. “I started out scared to death but eventually grew to love it. After joining Surf Life Saving and learning the skills I needed I soon became confident and gradually made the transition over to triathlons. Without living in Cornwall I wouldn’t have the love of water that I do now. I really couldn’t think of a better place to grow up.” Well Melissa, neither could I!
But I am now intrigued as to how Melissa started triathlons, as I certainly love swimming in the sea but I have never thought to run and cycle afterwards! “Triathlon had never really been a thought in my life, nor had becoming a professional athlete. As a teenager I wanted to work as a lifeguard on the beach before travelling the world doing the same. Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Due to my vision I was unable to work on the beach; after years of training my world fell apart and I didn’t know what to do”. Melissa continues, “After a few weeks of feeling angry and bitter I decided to use my vision to my advantage and so, for the first time ever, turned to trial paratriathlon. After my first race I was hooked and there was no going back”. It is a remarkable show of resolve that Melissa has shown; she is the epitome of leaning into the curve that life throws at you.
I ask her how it feels to be such an inspiration and find myself captivated by her modesty. “I do not see myself as an inspiration. I have just gone and tried my best at something I enjoy; it has its ups and downs. It is a privilege that people see me as an inspiration but I am just like everyone else who wants to achieve; if you give everything you have then you will get there.”
Truer words could not have been said and I feel myself making a mental note to remember this and draw from it in the future. While some move away in ease of access to their work, Melissa is determined to stay within her Cornish roots. “I see myself in Cornwall for the rest of my life. I do not intend on moving for training or work purposes. I have a brilliant social and supportive network here with TR1 coaching and the St Austell swim club; I wouldn’t change it for the world. My quality of life here in Cornwall is better than any training facility in the country.”
So, it looks like Melissa will be staying in Cornwall whenever possible and only leaving for the important things… like the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, where Melissa hopes to bring home gold. I want to wish Melissa luck but I think back to what she says about giving everything she has and I realise she doesn’t need it; she already has all that she needs to do amazingly; the drive and determination to succeed at what she loves. I cannot wait to see where the future takes her.