26/09/2019

Meet Lily Rice

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The wheelchair motocross star who became a global sensation, tells her Parasport story

Wheelchair motocross (WCMX) hasn’t just provided me a sport to enjoy – it’s changed my entire life around.

When I was first in it, I didn’t want to be seen in my wheelchair. I didn’t want to leave the house much and I treated my disability as a negative.

But there was a moment where it just clicked for me, and I realised I could have fun in my wheelchair and still be the person I was before.

I was scrolling through YouTube and a video of Aaron Fotheringham, the creator of WCMX popped up, and from the moment I watched it I was hooked. One year later and I was doing backflips!

After writing a letter to Aaron I went and watched a show that was close by and then it became a lot more real. Aaron came to see me, we spoke a lot about the sport and from there I was practising as much as I could.

I got my first proper chair just before my 13th birthday – but it took a month for it to stop raining and for me to be able to go out there and get on the skatepark. When it came, I fell, quite hard, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to go out there and ride.

I went to new parks, practiced, got better, then went to a bigger one on Haverfordwest, which we were fortunate was only 20 minutes away.

I started going early in the mornings because it was quieter, but I found myself making more and more friends along the way.

I was worried to start with about how people would be but people were so supportive and helped me progress so much.

These people, who I met for the first time at the skatepark, are now some really close friends. At Haverfordwest, a wheelchair isn’t seen as anything different to a bike, scooter of skateboard.

That’s the power of sport, and an amazing goal I want for all skateparks.

People started off being shocked I was there but it didn’t take long for them to be really accepting, and it’s all just seen as normal. Do a trick in a wheelchair and everyone just has so much respect!

The sport is getting a lot more known in the community, which is fantastic, but there is still a stigma attached in some places and that’s what we want to get rid of. Not just the ones surrounding people in wheelchairs at skateparks, but people everywhere who have disabilities.

I’m also a world champion in the sport which is really cool. I’ve not been doing it for very long but it’s nice to see how much improvement can be made with practice.

There are still tricks I want to learn and I don’t feel that I’ve mastered the sport even though I’m the world champion.

To do that I feel you have to be better than the person who invented WCMX – but I don’t think that’s going to happen for a while.

But the moments it’s given me so far have been amazing. When I was 13, I became the first European girl to complete a backflip in a wheelchair – and that video got two million views overnight!

Most importantly for me is having a lot of fun in the sport. I love watching it, BMX, skating, I see tricks these guys do and I just want to do them.

Not the way they do it, perhaps, but I always want to try and attempt to adapt it in a wheelchair.

So there’s always a lot to do – I want to learn new tricks, reclaim my world champion title and just see what I’m capable of in WCMX.

But most importantly it’s about inspiring people and teaching more people how to ride, giving them the belief that they can do sports like this, and being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop that from happening.

Just because we’re in a wheelchair or have a disability doesn’t mean we’re disabled – we’re just as able as everyone else, we just have to do it differently sometimes.

I enjoy proving people wrong – and I have a hashtag and mantra to help me do that. #PuttingTheAbilityInDisability and “you can do anything you want to, you just have to put your mind to it” both mean a lot to me, and being part of the WCMX has done a lot to help me achieve that over the years.

It’s important to me that everywhere becomes accessible – and the way people can perceive disabilities can be a lot better than it is now.

But if everyone pulls together, there’s no reason that that can’t happen. And I’d be very proud if it does.