As a young swimmer, Rachel Williamson dreamed of competing in the Olympic Games. But during trials for the 2006 Commonwealth Trials she narrowly missed out on a place and decided to pursue an RAF career instead.
Rachel became a corporal and medic in the RAF and took up playing rugby. But in 2014, a minor injury on the playing field changed her life forever.
“I sprained my thumb, landing awkwardly on it and snapping it backwards. At first I didn’t pay much attention - I even played another game of rugby the next day.” However the damage turned out to be much greater than first thought. “My fingers started bothering me a lot, then my whole hand and then it started to affect my shoulder. Now, I can no longer use my entire right arm.”
Rachel was medically discharged in 2018 and on top of dealing with her injury, the loss of her career took its toll mentally too. “I was at my lowest point in early 2018, a dark place, and I hated myself”.
“I also had to learn how to do everything again, such as writing for example. And I had to learn to ask for and accept help.”
Through our Sports Recovery programme, Rachel regained the confidence her injury took away from her and joined the Invictus UK programme. Training gave her a new goal in life and at the Sydney Games in 2018, she won two gold medals in the rowing and three silvers and one bronze in the pool. She will be the first female captain of Team UK at the rescheduled 2021 Invictus Games in The Hague.
“When I first started training I was just turning in circles in the pool - I felt like Nemo. However, I have now come to the realisation that I still have one arm and two legs, and I have learned to use them properly, which was a big accomplishment. I found myself again thanks to the exercise. It’s not the medals that are important to me, but the fact that I am swimming again.
“I had to convince myself again that sports are really enjoyable and good for you. Now I am the person I used to be.”