Chloe Ball-Hopkins: Aiming High
Posted by: Chloe Ball-Hopkins
I was born with Arthrogryposis; I had no hips and my feet were bent up to my shins. At the age of four after a few operations, the doctors realised my muscles weren’t repairing very well and carried out a biopsy which showed I had a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Nemaline Myopathy. It’s been a vicious circle growing up. If I had an operation on my leg, my muscles wouldn’t repair well and my legs would get weaker.
But still after all of the operations I’ve had, I like to make a point of getting up onto my feet when I can. I’m able to walk small distances and I tend to keep quite fit and healthy through sport. I first started to try out different sports at school in year 8, as I was being bullied and my teacher wanted me to have something to focus on.
For the first session I was adamant I wasn’t going to go – it was a tennis day at the local tennis centre in the next city up. I said ‘I’m not going!’ and they said ‘yes you are! It’s been decided, it’s been signed off.’ Obviously they couldn’t force me, but I really didn’t want to go. They told me to come along and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to do it again. But by the end of that day, I completely changed my outlook on not only sport, but about how I was going to approach the situation back at school.
I was going to leave that school until that first session. I thought you know what, they’re not going to get the better of me and sport really changed things. It began with tennis and basketball, and then onto athletics, competing at a national level. I was hoping to compete in London 2012, but before I had the chance to find out, I was taken ill and admitted to intensive care.
Afterwards, I needed to find an appropriate sport for my condition. I went to Stoke Mandeville and tried many different sports at a sports camp. I never thought I would take up archery. By 2014, eight months into doing archery, I was wearing the Great Britain kit.
“I had competed in three internationals, broke two world records and was the European bronze medallist.”
In the lead up to Rio, I ended up with a shoulder injury which resulted in surgery. I’d like to make it to Tokyo 2020; I’ve got to try at least! I did ask myself is my body going to take it now? I’ve been out of training for quite a while, am I too old for it now?’ but I know that I would always wonder ‘what if’. I don’t want to do that; I’d rather be able to say ‘at least I tried’, because I believe the most important thing is to have a positive outlook.
For anybody who has recently become wheelchair bound, my advice would be to give yourself time to get your head around it. Don’t think you’ve got to do too much too soon. You need to give yourself (physically and mentally) the time you need to understand and accept what has happened.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need help with something, ask for it and in time when you become more independent, try getting involved in sport. Not only is sport good for you physically, it’s good for you mentally and in sport, you’re surrounded by people who are like you – they’re in the same boat and can help you.
There are times I really don’t want to go to the gym, but I go because I know afterwards I’ll feel good. It’s all about making sure to get the right balance and not doing too much.
“I have to motivate myself to get into gear and go and do it, otherwise one day sat on the sofa becomes two… You have to remind yourself you’re doing it for a reason.”
Read more from Chloe on inclusive fashion and her collaboration with ASOS.