Whats Your Why

 
what's your why
 
 
what's your why

Rebel Sport NZ tells the story of Sophie Pascoe and the tragic accident that, as a small child, left her fighting for her life. But that day has not defined her. Fuelled by her 'why', Sophie has defied the odds, becoming a World Champion Para-Swimmer. Her story is told by Eric Thomas, world-renowned motivational speaker, and collaborator behind 'what's your why?'

 
 
 

Sophie Pascoe

Born

8 January 1993
Christchurch, New Zealand

Discipline

Swimming

Paralympics debut

Beijing, September 2008

Accolades

9 Paralympic gold medals

6 Paralympic silver medals

New Zealand's most decorated Paralympian

13 World Championship gold medals

4 World Records Held (as at 01/08/16)

4 Halberg Disabled Sportsperson of the Year Awards

2017 Halberg Sport New Zealand Leadership Award

2014 & 2017 Laureus Award Nominee: Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

 

1995

The Accident

At barely two years old, Sophie faced her biggest challenge to date. Run over by her Dad's ride on mower on her family's Christchurch lifestyle property; she was left fighting for her life. Rushed to hospital by her Dad and a neighbour, the first of many operations took place, this one to save her life. After six hours on the operating table, the surgeons saved Sophie's right leg, leaving it severely scarred but functional. But her left leg was unable to be saved and had to be amputated below the knee. Sophie spent 18 days in the hospital, with her family keeping a bedside vigil over their little girl.

1996

A Normal Childhood

Ask Sophie about her childhood, and she will tell you that her parents treated her no differently to her older sister, Rebecca. They encouraged her to give everything a go. If she said, "I can't do that," they would say: "Yes you can. Just try." Despite the many hospital check-ups, operations and painful skin grafts, Sophie took this new normal in her stride, often scaring the daycare staff with her climbing antics on the jungle gym. From going on school camps to winning the school sports running race, Sophie never let her disability hold her back.

 

2000

Where it all began

Like most Kiwi kids, swimming lessons were a part of Sophie's school curriculum, encouraging her to give it a go. Surprisingly, she didn't immediately excel in the water, struggling to keep up with the other kids. But always wanting to help her lead a normal life, Sophie's mum enrolled her in one on one lessons with the help of a Halberg Trust Grant. Little did they know where these lessons would lead.

2000

The first win

That same year, Sophie's school held their annual swimming sports. Competing for the very first time against her able-bodied friends, she won the race. At that moment, Sophie realised that she could compete with other kids, but more than that, she could beat them. This is where Sophie's swimming journey began, as she quickly realised that her talent in the pool could be bigger than her disability.

 

2001

A future star

At eight, Sophie went on to compete in the Crippled Children's Society (CCS) Independence Games. It was here that her talent began to shine. In her first race, Sophie swam against Hadleigh Pierson, a current Paralympian, and won. While their disabilities are very different, Sophie's performance in the pool that day caught the eye of former Paralympians and disabled sport advocates, Graham Condon and Roly Crichton (Sophie's Current Coach). They offered Sophie the opportunity to train with the QEII Swim Club, then and there. This was to be the start of Sophie's Swimming Career.

2002

The Promise

One of the most important people in Sophie's early life was her Gragra (Granddad). Sadly, when Sophie was just nine years old, her swimming career just beginning, her Gragra was in the final stages of his battle with lung cancer. Before he passed away, Sophie made him a promise that she would compete in the Paralympics one day and win a gold medal for him. A promise that she has so far kept nine times over.

 

2006

Road to the Paralympics

The early stages of Sophie's swimming career were designed to give her vital experience in the pool, as she trained for the 2012 London Paralympics. So when she qualified to race at the 2006 World Championship in Durban, at just 13 years old, she didn't expect to win anything. Walking away with a bronze medal in the 200m Medley was further proof that she had the talent and drive to take her all the way, not only to London but to the Beijing Paralympics, four years earlier than anticipated.

 

2007

Training, training and more training

"It's not enough to be physically at 100% on race day, but you also have to be 100% mentally ready as well." - Sophie Pascoe

Sophie doesn't look back and think 'what if' the accident never happened. For her, it's all about the present, and this drives her to train every day with no excuses. The power of her 'why' ensures that she never misses a training session and leaves everything she has in the pool. All this, despite the considerable pain she faces from her injury and the sheer exhaustion of her training. This gruelling regime means Sophie can stand on the blocks, confident in the fact that she has done absolutely everything within her power to prepare for the race ahead of her.

"It's not enough to be physically at 100% on race day, but you also have to be 100% mentally ready as well." - Sophie Pascoe

Sophie doesn't look back and think 'what if' the accident never happened. For her, it's all about the present, and this drives her to train every day with no excuses. The power of her 'why' ensures that she never misses a training session and leaves everything she has in the pool. All this, despite the considerable pain she faces from her injury and the sheer exhaustion of her training. This gruelling regime means Sophie can stand on the blocks, confident in the fact that she has done absolutely everything within her power to prepare for the race ahead of her.

 

2008

Beijing Paralympics

At just 15, Sophie became New Zealand's youngest Paralympian. This was an unexpected detour on her road to London 2012, so everyone's expectations were firmly grounded. While her competitive nature means she always turns up to win, she looked at Beijing as an opportunity to gain experience on the daunting Paralympic stage. However, as Sophie tends to do, she far surpassed everyone's expectations claiming three gold medals and one silver.

This was also a special moment for Sophie and her Dad. Standing on the podium, she caught her Dad's eyes. Seeing her usually reserved, Southern Dad shed a tear, was, in Sophie's own words, "A moment of closure for us, taking us right back to the accident. Now knowing that his daughter is a world champion."

2012

London Paralympics

After her success in Beijing, Sophie faced a new challenge as she prepared for the London games. No longer an unknown 15-year-old, the media placed her firmly in the public spotlight as a sure bet for medal success, putting Sophie under considerable pressure to perform.

Sophie rose to the challenge, earning herself 3 gold medals, 3 silver medals and two new world records in the women's 200m medley and 100m Butterfly.

 
 

2016

Rio Paralympics

Now a seasoned professional, Sophie was well versed on what it takes to be the best in the world, as her and coach Roly Crichton planned their lead-up to the Rio Olympics. Training relentlessly, without missing a single session, is key to Sophie's success. But so is her mental game, that allows her to work through the intense pain she experiences in her right leg, as she pushes the small amount of muscle left to its absolute maximum. And it's a formula that works, earning her three gold medals and two silvers and the honor of becoming New Zealand's most awarded Paralympian.

For Sophie, swimming has given her something beyond the thrill of the win, or the pride that comes with representing her country. It has enabled her to define who she is outside of her disability, rather than be defined by it. "Yes, I'm different because I'm disabled. But I'm also different because I'm a world champion. Not many people can say that." - Sophie Pascoe

2017

A Shining Star

"Once in a generation a person comes along who doesn't seek the limelight or a leadership position, but through their success, their humility, their life story, they not only inspire us, but they dramatically change and influence our perception and attitudes towards that sport." Peter Miskimmin, CEO of Sport New Zealand

2017 has been a year of recognition for Sophie, awarded the Sport New Zealand Leadership Award at the Halbergs, and nominated for a prestigious Laureus Award. Acknowledgement of her efforts in the pool, and her positive influence on how we view Para-Olympic sport in New Zealand. Sophie is an inspiration to thousands of Kiwis, both disabled and able-bodied, and in the words of Peter Miskimmin, one of our greatest champions ever.

 
 
 

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