Libby Clegg

22nd June 2012 at 01:00
The Paralympian sprinter was cheered on by two teachers who understood the demands of a sporting career

I was in and out of school quite a lot. I was training every day apart from Sunday. It went from track sessions to gym sessions and doing things in the weights room. From about the age of 16, it got serious. That was when I started to knuckle down.

I had taken it seriously before, but it took more time and commitment, and that did affect my school work a lot. I was very tired. I didn't commit myself to my school work as much as I should have. That was why it was good my teachers were supportive - without them, I probably would have left school with nothing.

Kay Bates was my biology teacher at the Blind School, and my other favourite teacher was Cathy Balfour, my maths teacher. They were both really inspirational, because they both had a pretty good understanding of my sport and they encouraged me to take every opportunity.

Mrs Bates' two sons did skiing to a high level, and Cathy Balfour's daughter was a swimmer and actually went to Beijing, so they understood what I was going through.

They understood about my workload, how many training hours I had put in, and they were helpful when it came to revising for my exams. If I needed time off from school, they understood why I was doing it and that was important to me.

When I first met Mrs Bates she was really quite scary. For the first two years, she terrified me. She pretended to be scary, but she was really kind on the inside.

She had worked in mainstream schools as well, so she had this fierce exterior, but once you got to know her, she was quite good fun, and she made our lessons interesting and exciting. Our class was very small - there were only about four or five of us, so it was quite nice to have a bit of a giggle and still get hard work done as well.

She did some extra revision classes with me leading right up to the month before my exams, making sure I knew my stuff because of the time I had missed at school being away training, or sometimes I had so much on with my athletics that I was just tired and it didn't sink in.

I am friends on Facebook with her now. I don't speak to her very often, but I like to have a nose and see what she has been up to. She has retired from teaching now, but she is still supportive, and she is always wishing me good luck.

My maths teacher, Cathy, I only saw for four years. I did first and second year with another teacher and then moved into her maths class, and she was really nice, kind and gentle. Because her daughter swam to an elite level, she knew how difficult it was for me, how hard training was, and that I did come to class tired sometimes. She also gave me extra revision classes.

She was much softer, but still really supportive, and if I had any problems in my sport, if anything was upsetting me or I was struggling, I could speak to her about it.

In class she was very calm; she never needed to tell you off or anything. Everyone got equal amounts of attention and she was really patient and very understanding.

I would just like to thank them both for the time and support they put into me. I really appreciate everything they have done for me, and I will never forget my school and those teachers.

They taught me how to commit myself to things, tolerance, and to be myself and follow my own dreams. If I hadn't had such a supportive school I would have left with hardly any grades. They gave me the confidence to follow my dreams and know that I can go back into education - and I definitely will.

Libby Clegg, 21, who has Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy, meaning she has only slight peripheral vision in her left eye, is hoping to compete in the 100m and 200m events for the visually impaired in the London 2012 Paralympics. She was talking to Julia Belgutay

PERSONAL PROFILE

Born: Cheshire 1990

Education: St Gregory's Primary, Bollington; St Alban's Primary, Macclesfield; Henbury High; Royal Blind School, Edinburgh; Loughborough College

Career: Paralympic silver medallist and world champion sprinter.

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