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  • Writer's picturePhil Packer

Paralympian, 5 x World Champion and 6 x World Number 1 yachtswoman, Alexandra Rickham, joins BRIT

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

In 2010, Alexandra supported our Founder, Phil Packer, when he completed his second 26 mile London Marathon in 26 hours for 26 charities. The Royal Yachting Association, who had encouraged Phil to try sailing after he sustained his spinal cord injuries, were one of the charities he chose to support and raise awareness of. Alexandra joined Phil for one of his miles to provide much needed encouragement, inspiration and support as he neared the end of his marathon challenge. Eleven years on and we are absolutely thrilled that Alexandra is supporting Phil and The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT).

Alexandra Rickman - Paralympian, 5 x World Champion and 6 x World Number 1 yachtswoman

We are determined to deliver an annual BRIT Challenge that is inclusive and provides the opportunity for every Higher Education and Further Education student in the UK to participate. The BRIT 2021 Challenge has been designed so that students and young adults of all abilities can take part wherever they are.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are at the core of our vision to support young adult mental health throughout the UK. As an inspirational female, mixed race, disabled role model, we are honoured that Alexandra has joined our BRIT Ambassador family to champion our annual BRIT Challenge and share her experiences and knowledge to support young adult mental health throughout the UK.

“Having experienced learning to live with a disability when I was younger, being a former student at the University of Bath and Imperial College, London and being able to reflect on the times when I had endured discrimination, I understand many of the mental health challenges that young adults are trying to cope with.

I am delighted to be part of the BRIT Ambassador family and unite with fellow Olympians, Paralympians and sports personalities to support young adult mental health throughout the UK.

Transitioning from a career as an elite athlete to finding a new passion and role as a civilian is not dissimilar to the feelings of entering or leaving Higher and Further education; the challenges and uncertainty of entering a new phase in life (particularly when this is about your identity) can be daunting and cause anxiety, depression and mental health challenges. It is so important to have access to support if you need it and BRIT are doing all they can to support and champion charities providing these vital services.

We must do more to support and improve the mental health, wellbeing and fitness of all young adults and students in the UK; by delivering their annual challenges, BRIT are offering a feel-good team fundraising opportunity to engage every student in Further and Higher Education. All we are asking is that UK universities and colleges embrace and promote the opportunity for their students and staff to decide if they want to enter teams and participate.

As someone who lives with a disability, I know how empowering it can feel to be an integral member of a team and the importance of being treated as an equal. The BRIT Challenge is inclusive and has been designed so that young adults and students of all abilities can take part. The BRIT Challenge is an opportunity for every UK university and college to unite in support of young adult mental health; if they all entered teams and raised £2,021 each, together they would raise almost £1million for young adult mental health.

The BRIT vision is to deliver inspiration by inviting Olympians, Paralympians and sports personalities to unite in support of young adult mental health and join their BRIT Ambassador family. There is potential for every UK university and college to be supported by a BRIT Ambassador if we come together; I urge my fellow current and retired athletes to join me and support a university or college of their choice in order to encourage and inspire students to take part in BRIT’s annual challenges.

I look forward to encouraging students and staff at Imperial College, London, Kingston University, the University for the Creative Arts, North East College of Technology (NESCOT) and Epsom College to take on the BRIT 2021 Challenge.”

Alexandra Rickman - BRIT Ambassador

Alexandra's accident happened in her early teens;

"It was pretty black and white but returning to school after a year away in rehab, now in a wheelchair, was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Facing your peers is tough; especially at that age. I learnt early on a lot about myself and those around me."

After finishing High School at the City of London Freeman’s School, Alexandra headed to university to complete her degree in Natural Sciences between 2001 and 2004 at the University of Bath . She went on to complete her Master’s Degree in Environmental Technology at Imperial College, London between 2005 and 2006.

Life took an unexpected turn after Alexandra was approached by a member of the British Sailing Team’s development squad. She has the attributes (female and tetraplegic) to classify for the SKUD18; at the time it was a new two-person boat premiering in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Financial constraints ended the partnership, however Alexandra was hooked and sailing became her passion.

Alexandra was then contacted by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and offered an opportunity to partner with Niki Birrell; an Olympic class sailor with cerebral palsy. Alexandra and Niki competed for the Great Britain sailing team’s 2008 Paralympic Games SKUD18 boat. They won the trials and their place in the team.

Their successful partnership over three Paralympic Games (Beijing I 2008, London in 2012 and Rio in 2016) delivered two bronze medals, five consecutive World Titles and World Number 1 standing for six years.

Alexandra then went through the transition from being an elite yachtswoman and athlete to re-establishing herself in civilian life. Her passion is the environment and her focus is on sustainability in sport; the understanding of the impact of the sports industry on society and the environment. Alexandra works for Earth to Ocean; a consultancy where she delivers in-house support for SailGP; the global sailing championship.

Alexandra is also an Equality and Diversity UK qualified Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Train the Trainer. She is determined that her holistic view of sustainability in sport helps to deliver environmental objectives and also those around diversity ad inclusion.

To find out more about the Royal Yachting Association, please visit their website.

To find out more about the British Sailing Team, please visit their website.


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