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  • Writer's picturePhil Packer

Para-rower, Sophie Harris, joins the BRIT Ambassador family

We are delighted that Sophie has joined our BRIT Ambassador family.

Sophie is a para-rower who, prior to recent surgery, was training with the Great Britain Para-rowing Development Squad. Post-surgery in late 2020, Sophie has been easing back into training, including coastal rowing.

Sophie Harris - Para-rower

“Having battled with a disability and pain for many years that resulted in deciding amputation was the best option, I can understand and appreciate how tough it must be for young adults and students who are living with anxieties, pressures and struggling with their mental health. As a student at Plymouth University, I know that there has been a significant increase in the number of young adults facing mental health challenges, and am mindful that COVID-19 is compounding the existing difficulties faced by so many young people; particularly those living with disabilities or who are vulnerable.

According to Mind, one in four young people were unable to access the mental health support they needed during the 2020 lockdown. Mental health services have become stretched during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, and charities have an important role in supporting young adult mental health. The British Inspiration Trust’s BRIT 2021 Challenge is an innovative and inspiring opportunity to improve the mental health and fitness of millions of students and young adults. We need to do all we can to ensure student and staff are encouraged to look after their health and fitness, and the BRIT 2021 challenge is a UK-wide opportunity that every student and staff member can be part of.

The BRIT 2021 Challenge is enabling and empowering students and young adults to unite wherever they are (at home or on campus) and take part in a fun and feel-good challenge to raise vital funds for charities who support young adult mental health. It is an inclusive challenge with many different ways to take part. Every UK university, college and students’ union have been invited to embrace the BRIT 2021 Challenge, enter teams and encourage their students and staff to participate.

I am delighted to be joining the BRIT Ambassador family and look forward to encouraging and supporting students and staff at Plymouth University and City College Plymouth as they take on their BRIT 2021 Challenge”.

Following years of battling with talipes (commonly known as Club Foot), arthritis and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), Sophie decided that amputation was the best option. A month before her surgery she realised a long-term ambition by joining a rowing club.

She got her first taste of the sport at Mayflower Offshore Rowing Club in Plymouth and later contacted British Rowing about Para-rowing. She wrote to British Rowing to say that she was about to become an amputee and after her surgery, an invitation came to be invited on to the GB Rowing Para-rowing Development Squad.

Following her surgery, Sophie raised money through grants and sponsorship to enable her to purchase a rowing-specific prosthetic leg, which saw her times continually improving under the guidance of coach Simon Gifford-Mead at Dart Totnes ARC and Ella Willott, who was the British Rowing’s England Talent Pathway coach for Para-rowing.

Simon died in May 2019 and this was a huge loss to the rowing community. In November 2019, Sophie withdrew from British Rowing’s Para-rowing Development Squad in preparation for surgery in January 2020. Due to COVId-19, her surgery was rescheduled and took place in October 2020.

After recovering from her surgery, Sophie has returning back to social and competitive rowing. Concurrently, she has been attending City College Plymouth on a course affiliated with Plymouth University. She is studying for her BSc Hons degree in Sports Injury and Rehabilitation and will be embarking on her MSc degree in Pre Reg Physiotherapy.

Sophie is an Ambassador for Love Rowing; British Rowing’s new Charitable Foundation and an Ambassador for Dorset Orthopaedic.


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