From being diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia and ‘walking wonky’ to white water rafting, surfing, cycling the length of Wales, cycling from Cardiff to Paris, and finally planning to race all 6 of our Super Series races in 2024. Here’s Tina’s story…
In school, Tina would walk around bumping into her friends and they would say ‘oh my God, walk straight’. She remembers being in assembly, praying with her eyes closed and she would just lose her balance and topple over. Although Tina has a great sense of humour and used to laugh these things off, here she knew something was wrong. So, she went and got some tests and at 16 was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia. After the diagnosis Tina decided she was going to carry on and live her life as normal. She went to University and studied Theatre, Film and TV Studies. And she went on to get her first job in the BBC. Tina found that she was being more active now than before she was diagnosed. She had the mindset of ‘I’m going to do whatever I’m able to do now’. Therefore, she tried multiple adventurous adapted sports such as white water rafting and surfing. She said she felt that whatever she could find that they had adapted so that she could do, she felt like she had to take up that opportunity and do it. Tina points out that she’s not the best at anything but she does it for the enjoyment that she gets out of it.
When asked how she got into triathlon, Tina, now a wheelchair user, mentions her friend Nia that she met in University. She describes Nia as being the first person she calls when she has challenges in her head and thinks ‘who’s crazy enough to do this with me?’ She contacted Nia 3 years ago when she had this idea of cycling the length of Wales. They got to talking and found a tandem online that was a normal bike on the back and a hand cycle on the front. Tina said the bike wasn’t cheap and they had to get it over from Germany. But they did it, cycled the length of Wales in a week and she said it was the best ride ever. After that Covid hit and Tina was like ‘oh we can’t do much’. But then she found a triathlon in Windsor for disabled people. At this point, Tina couldn’t swim. But she said to Nia ‘we’ve got a year. Let’s do it, we’ll sign up, I’ll get some lessons and we’ll be fine’. And that’s what they did. Tina spoke honestly and said by the time of the triathlon she couldn’t swim more than 100m without stopping and the triathlon was a 750m swim. She said she nearly died but it was fun.
So, after doing that, Tina thought she’d love to do more triathlons but there’s not much available for disabled people. She said there are some but you’ve got to be a strong athlete; there wasn’t something in between where you might need some support. However, Tina has always had this idea that if there is something that’s not available to you then you create it. But then she spoke to Zoe, the Events Officer at Welsh Triathlon at the time, and asked ‘what’s the best way to do this?’ and Zoe said ‘I’ll help you with that’. And that is how Tina got the idea to race in Welsh Triathlon’s Super Series. Tina was originally planning to race in the series this year, however another one of her exciting challenges meant that this couldn’t be the case. At the end of May, Tina will be embarking on a cycle from Cardiff to Paris with Nia on the tandem. And in 2024, Tina is planning to race in all 6 of the Welsh Triathlon Super Series races. Tina has been continuously impressed with how helpful and inclusive the event organisers have been with helping her to achieve this.
When talking about support, Tina praises both her racing supports Nia and Caris. But she says her parents have been her biggest support. Whatever she needs, whether that’s someone to go with her somewhere or any help or support, they are always there. And they always have been. Tina says that that is one of the reasons she has found it easier to cope with this condition, she knows that they are always on hand with any support she needs.
To finish off, Tina told me about her favourite quote which she has tattooed on her arm. The quote is in Welsh but translates to ‘“What if I fall?” But, what if you fly?’ Tina points out how it’s so easy to think of the negatives, ‘what could go wrong?’ but it could also be amazing. She says whenever she has doubts, she thinks ‘maybe it’ll be a good idea’.
We are so excited to see Tina achieve everything she has set out to do over the next 2 years. She is an inspiration to many. Thank you to our Event Organisers for working with us to accommodate Tina's needs and promote the fact that the majority of events in Wales are accessible and recommending para athletes speak to EO's to discuss their own individual needs.