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Emily Gray: Our Remarkable Paralympic Swimmer

Emily Anne Gray was born on 23 August 1991

About Emily

Favourite –
Colour: Purple
Music (bands/artists): Coldplay, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin
Movie: 7 Pounds
Holiday destination: Loved France and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, would go there again any day!
Food: I like pastas, fruit and salads. Healthy foods...

Other sports/hobbies:
Like going to the bush and belly boarding in the sea when I can.

Biggest achievement:
Making the SA Paralympic team in 2008; coming 4th at IPC World Championships; being a nominee at the SA Sports Awards.

Person you admire the most/inspires you:
Michael Phelps and Oscar Pistorius.

Advice for up and coming sportsmen and women:
To have no limits on your dreams, and no limits on how hard you may need to push yourself. It's important to never stop having fun in your sport and to never lose sight of your goals.

A look into my sporting career and private life

I loved to run, the middle distance events were my favourites. Running for me came totally naturally. I could feel that easy rhythm in my body. I also loved to surf. I could surf for hours, the thought of traveling to interesting countries and riding great waves was part of my mind set. I also enjoyed backpacking and walking in the mountains.

Then my life seriously flipped upside down. Nothing I expected or anyone else did, then happened to me... I started to feel this aching pain in my hip, but as I had a tough character I never complained much about it. But as the pain worsened we decided to check it out. I was initially treated for a soft tissue injury thought to have arisen from running. Later it was diagnosed as a osteosarcoma. This was at the age of 11 years; no words could describe the emotions and thoughts that were running through my head, I didn’t even know what cancer was at the time and actually could never have prepared myself for what I was about to endure with the chemo-therapy.

Going through chemo-therapy is something I would never want anyone to experience in their life. As the chemo wasn’t reducing the cancer I was faced with the decision of ‘loose my leg or my life’. The reality was that I would have my left leg amputated at the hip. The magnitude of this type of decision is obviously indescribable. But to this day I would still make that decision I made when I was 11, I don’t regret it one bit.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with a close family and have very supportive Mum, Dad and three great sisters. The realization that I would not be able to run, hike or surf as I did before was not pleasant. However, virtually the day I came out of hospital my Dad and I set about finding other ways of doing things and having fun. Through the disabled association we were guided to Mandeville Sports Club. There we met many energetic and positive people who later would become friends and mentors. There I met people who were either born with serious disabilities or had suffered equally devastating set backs – but had all continued to make the most of life.

I tried all manner of sports (favourites being wheel chair basket ball and rugger). Whilst, if I fell into a pool I wouldn’t have drowned, I could not swim well – but enjoyed the water and the competition. And so, there at Mandeville, it all started. South Africa has great swimming coaches and I was lucky enough to live in Johannesburg and have trained with some of the best. Athletes who had already made there mark such as Taghd Slattery and Natalie Du Toit encouraged me in those early days. Within 5 years I was on my way to the Paralympics in Beijing. What a wonderful experience. The size and energy of the event is amazing. I was very lucky – and frustrated as I did not do as well as I would have liked. But this just served to firm my resolve to do better. London 2012 is calling and I would like to qualify for multiple events and aim to medal in one.

My schooling had been set back, but fortunately had understanding and good teachers. I was at Delta Park for a time and closed my schooling at Silver Oaks International in Pretoria. Then after a lot of consideration of ‘where to’ after my schooling, I decided to stay here in the country that had “grown my swimming career”. I am now at The University of Pretoria (Tukkies) where I train with a great squad and enjoy my new degree course in Sports Science. I would like to do some business studies at the end of my degree and find a commercial path in sport.

With all this swimming and studying there is not a great deal of personal fun and party time to be had - Sadly! I enjoy a wide range of music from current bands to some of the greats out of the 70’s and 80’s. In my idle time I enjoy a good comedy or horror movie! We as a family love going to the bush and I still crave the beach and enjoy body boarding. I enjoy simple healthy foods like – fruits, salads, and pasta dishes.

I have a positive outlook on life. I believe if you choose to do something you should do it with all your heart. I am quiet and quietly determined. I have a view that you need to get on with life and appreciate all the things that you have – rather than what you don’t have.

Whatever you may do in life, do it to the best of your potential and you will never be disappointed with yourself.

Past and recent achievements

August 2006
IPC World Championships, Durban – Finale and came 4th in 100 backstroke.

September 2007
IWAS, Taiwan – Multiple Personal Bests

August 2008
Paralympics, Beijing: 100 Backstroke

November 2010
IPC World Chamionships, Netherlands – Finale and came 4th in the 400 freestyle.

March 2011
Became the Nedbank Brand Ambassador and the torch bearer for the South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD).

August 2011
• Para Pan Pacific Championships , Canada – 4 Personal Best and 4 Bronze medals
• Became a nominee for ‘South African Sports Woman of the Year' (with a disability) at the SA Sports Awards

September 2011
Represented SA in the All Africa Games, Maputo, Mozambique. Won a silver and bronze medal.

Some of Emily's Favourite VRP Products:

Liquid Superfruit Antioxidant
Cortisol Control
Ethyl EPA
Primary Greens