"I am independent and able to live a pretty normal life to be honest. I do everything that I did before and a whole lot more, so I can’t complain." Jo Butterfield MBE
Jo worked alongside the British Army until in January 2010, she discovered she had a tumour on her spinal cord. After a scan, Jo was taken for surgery where she was told there was a 0.01% chance of paralysis. She woke up paralysed from the waist down.
Using the power of sport, Jo found the strength to overcome her injury and was selected to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic games. Going for gold again Tokyo 2020, Jo shows just what you can achieve with the right support around you.
“I don’t know how you begin to get over something like this happening to you – it’s not something I can explain, it’s just who I am. I think it is a decision, though. I can feel sorry for myself but it doesn’t make me feel better and it doesn’t change the situation, so I’m going to just get on with it and make sure I have a good life.
“I’m kind of paralysed from the chest down, so it affects all four limbs. I have a little bit of movement in my thumbs but not really anything much more than that and I have very weak triceps. So it does affect everything that I do, but I am independent and able to live a pretty normal life to be honest. I do everything that I did before and a whole lot more, so I can’t complain.
“When I was in hospital recovering for six months, I had the opportunity to try out some sports physio. And I was one to try everything. It was a chance to be able to not just sit and do stretches on the physio bed - it was actually something fun to do.
”There was one day in the spinal unit where we met a group of volunteers to try wheelchair rugby. I think I knew I would love it.
“Every day I’m reminded of what I can’t do, but with sport, I’m the best at something” Jo Butterfield MBE
“Eventually I got in to a wheelchair and within 10 seconds my face was beaming. I absolutely loved it, I fell in love with it there and then. I think that was the first moment I realised I could do something dangerous; I could do something exciting and I didn’t have to be wrapped up in cotton wool. I didn’t’ have to be protected all the time and I could do something aggressive and actually competitive.
“I met a guy called Michael Kerr who plays for Great Britain and we started training every day. And I realised that I was enjoying the training more than the work I was doing. It was him that said to me “this could be your profession”. I got accepted on a Girls4Gold programme with UK Sport and British Athletics, and they looked at a talent transfer to British Athletics for seated throwing. Very quickly, I realised that this was something I was quite good at. Within 18 months I was competing at world level.
“My progress shows what having good support around you can do. I was given an opportunity and it’s going great. We all know about the benefits of sport, but I think in disability sport, it’s under a magnifying glass. Pretty much every day, I have someone telling me I can’t do something or I’m reminded of what I can’t do, but with sport, it’s not about that. In sport, I’m the best at something. I hate being told what to do and what motivates me the most is someone telling me that I can’t do something.
“Winning gold at the World Championships has given me the confidence of knowing that I can do it. I’m able to keep everything in perspective and I know that as long as I work as hard as I possibly can and do my very best then I’ll be happy.”
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