Wessex Lifts, providers of through-floor home lifts and platform lifts, have welcomed wheelchair basketball player, Sophie Carrigill, as their new brand ambassador. They caught up with Sophie to find out more about her Paralympic success and the difference that a home lift has made to her independence

How did you get to where you are today?
In 2010, when I was 16 I was involved in a car accident in America. The accident changed my path forever. I am now 27 and a full time wheelchair user who is going to Tokyo this year with the GB wheelchair basketball team. I am lucky to be alive. I was so young, I did not know anyone with a disability, never mind the thought that it could happen to me. It was a real shock. I was now part of a new community that I had no idea about and I did not know anyone with a disability. I wanted to go back to school and do things that my friends were doing. It was really tough. I had gone from being an able bodied child who loved watching and taking part in all kinds of sports to wheelchair bound.

Over these last 11 years, I have been extremely lucky and very fortunate to have an amazing support network and to be doing what I do now.

You are off to Tokyo Paralympics this year?
I started playing for GB just after the London Games in 2013. I was truly and utterly inspired by the London Paralympics. I had been scouted by the team at this point as a potential player. Then the team had a re-shake and I was selected. My first tournament was in 2013 and we won a bronze medal.  I was 12th player on the bench and I did not get much court time but just to be part of the team was amazing. Now nearly 8 year on I have been to Rio, won Silver medal in 2018, European Silver Medal in 2019. It has ben such an incredible experience. Now fingers crossed that we can bring home a nice shin medal from Tokyo.

We have a really great fan base at the moment and the sport is always growing and we are always trying to get more people involved. I think sometimes there is a barrier to disability sport because people think if they don’t have a connection or someone in it, they don’t watch it and we need to get over that and see it for the great sport that it is. I don’t see it as a disability sport, we just use our wheelchairs as our equipment.

It will be great to continue the development and the growth of the sport in that way and hopefully Tokyo will be a big part in helping that.

Commonwealth Games 2022?
Yes really exciting it’s our home nation and the first time wheelchair basketball has ever been in the competition. A lot of the GB team are English so we’ll play for England and there is only four spots to go for.  So it will be a tough competition to actually get selected. Even just the fact that e are hosting it and that wheelchair basketball are part of it is awesome. No matter what, if I am selected or not I will still be there in some capacity to cheer them on and help in anyway that I can. Really exciting opportunity for us as a sport.

You have recently become Brand Ambassador for Wessex Lifts and have had a brand new lift installed in your new home – how has the lift helped you?
So when I first had my accident I used Wessex Lifts as well, because the house I was living in with my parents still wasn’t accessible I had to live downstairs and we were able to fund an extension

And had the lift put in. It just made such a difference just feeling like things were going back to normal.  Going upstairs is what I had always done so it just felt like that was getting back to normal – I had a way to get upstairs.

It really helped in that sense; I think psychologically as I was sleeping upstairs like everybody else was.

Josh and I wanted to live together, after spending so much time with each other during lockdown.

I think having the lift will prolong the time we will be able to be here. We will now grow into this house. It gives you the freedom of moving around your home without any restrictions. Before it was put in I was having to go up and down the stairs on my bum, which is absolutely fine but I am very fortunate that we have created a really great relationship and Wessex have supported us to have this done. It’s been amazing!!

It looks fab as well. In the eight, nine years since the other lift was put in at my old house, it looks more modern, and you can’t even hear it.  If Josh ever uses it and he comes downstairs I am like “where have you come from?”

Sophie Carrigill - Wessex Lifts

Inspire a Generation – tell us more?
The campaign launched in early 2021 to build a bigger wheelchair basketball community. Tapping into the people that want to play because we know there are so many people out there who want to get involved but are unable to because of access to facilities, access to chairs and equipment.

Our objective is to develop new fun and recreational local opportunities for individuals to engage with wheelchair basketball, ensuring increased levels of participation and to sustain sport, physical activity and an active lifestyle in the longer term.

We are working with the local communities to raise awareness and make exercise as inclusive and accessible for everyone. I was lucky that my cub was only 10 minutes down the road from me. I really want everyone else to have the opportunity to play if they choose to. Not everyone aspires to be Paralympian and that’s absolutely fine too, just get out there and have some fun. The best thing about wheelchair basketball is that it allows you to play with your able-bodied friends too.

To find out more about Inspire a Generation visit inspireageneration.com.

You have been chosen to be on the 2021 Forbes 30, Under 30 List of Next Generation Game Changers – how did that come about?
I was nominated for the list. I didn’t expect to be selected at all. It was such a shock and I’m so humbled! To be alongside some incredible game changing athletes is such an honour. I’m hoping it will open some doors or provide some new opportunities… such a cool group to be a part of!

To find out more about Wessex Lifts visit wessexlifts.co.uk.

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