MY mum was legendary. She made the slide. I was on the top bunk; I was the oldest and I was the only one who was allowed to use it. It was my big sister privilege to pull myself up it with my arms and slide down and no one else’s. The fact I couldn’t use the ladder was never the thing. I got to slide down every morning, like the smug little sausage I was. What a great childhood.

Despite my mum’s incredible efforts to get me to engage with life, when I was eight I was asked to write about a favourite place that I had visited and I wrote about my bed. I think a direct quote is, “if I could stay in it forever, I would”, all at once making that slide, however cool, obsolete. I am unsure what that predicts about a girl’s future but it is not immediately thrilling, is it?

Indeed, that first bit of writing may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy but not in the way one would expect.

Every person with cerebral palsy experiences it in an individual way. Especially me. Mine made me feel like a pirate. The rocking deck of the ship was my lack of balance or co-ordination – so staying upright was a hearty combination of risk and guesswork. The high winds and rum-stupor were the muscles in my legs, torso and left arm which stayed unusually tight. Most movements had incredibly high resistance, as if I was battling against the winds of a tempest, except I was usually indoors on a dreary school morning trying to put my socks on.

I was not really a pirate. I had cerebral palsy and perpetually cold feet. I would lie down and throw my head from side to side and clench my eyes. I could stop and start, pretending that I did in fact have power over my own freedom of movement, briefly, and then I was left reeling with the dizziness and exhilaration of mind-travel. I would dream of my bed flying out of the window into the stars…or the sea (and to magic pirate school – obviously, very much of the Harry Potter and the Worst Witch generation with a bit of Swallows and Amazons thrown in).

There was a moment though, where my body went as far as my mind. When walking (or socks) were out of the picture, everything was fine. Bed and head shaking was one option; my clown looking disability trike was another. I usually used it on the uneven, cold Glasgow pavements for a few minutes per ride. A dream-machine, it was not.

We must have driven to southern France once, with that trike. I remember a long flat, tree-canopied road, longer than my eye could see. I remember how empty it was and how sun speckled. How the speckles blurred into stars as I pedalled away from my family, who must have been walking. I remember loving being alone and faster than anyone. I definitely showed off how fast I could go and then suddenly I was gone, into my dazzling, green heaven. As fast as a mattress into the stars.

The police car was especially friendly. I must have made a few miles because as the story goes, a French policeman was worried that such a young girl was off cycling on her own and stopped me. I like to think mini-me was stopped for speeding. They put a sticker on my trike – a tracking sticker with invisible ink or something – and I was really fascinated that when you shone a special light on it, words glowed. My blissful or slightly psychopathic childhood priorities focus on that rather than if my mum was cautioned for letting her child roam free or in fact, whether she was arrested but I prioritise the next memory of a market with very sugary French sweeties.

Then the memories stop being blissful. With an increasing consciousness of others, holidays abroad are the black holes of my pupils, gazing endlessly at the fun my sibling had, communicating with splashes, somersaults and body-language when dialects differed. I was often approached by interested native kids who would ask me what was wrong with me, in a multitude of languages. I would answer in English to be met with a blank and pointed stare at my body-language barren self. What were supposed to be sunny sojourns, experiences to be treasured, would just highlight how different I was.

Then young-adulthood autonomy arrived in the form of a university away from home. Dundee, the city of discovery. I immediately discovered that with enough alcohol you stop being able to feel your legs and luckily (for any alcoholic-self-medicating tendencies) a passion for a new revolution in disability sport.

Through RaceRunning – or “running, supported by a frame, to avoid faceplanting after one step” – I was lifted to a new life. It happened like most revelatory moments do: sitting in an office, doing filing on summer break. As unpaid volunteering goes, it was OK, mainly because I avoided all trips abroad and got to read the things I was filing. Bobath Scotland is also a great charity who provide specialist therapy (and CV-boosting, revelatory experiences) to people with cerebral palsy.

It was the smile that grabbed me. The article about the boy on the three-wheeled frame looked like I did in my dreams, when I was flying. Except he was not on a bed halfway out of his window.

Instead he was in the much more tenable position of running with a RaceRunner at Red Star Athletics club in Glasgow. And then, suddenly, I was too.

I had what I consider to be my first real holiday during the annual RaceRunners Camp and Cup. A tough week of training was in fact what I had always been searching for; an invigorating, challenging yet achievable string of opportunities for learning and emotional growth (with a post-race, all-night party at the end).

For a week it made perfect sense that those who struggled to stand could run, those who could not dance could dash to victory in the 400m. The strength and effort shown was extraordinary – by the unpaid volunteers, who heave the athletes on to the frames and then the athletes, freeing themselves, once their feet touch the ground.

The trips afar are still sweat-covered pain fests I suppose, but without the puberty or obesity. I should admit a lot of the time I am still frustrated and bad-tempered by the political constraints and scarcity of all-night parties, in sport but I suppose you have to grow up some time.

I grew up into a Paralympic cyclist, a true cycle of life, back to my humble pavement-beginnings. Where British Cycling lack the whole-world-together, community, celebratory approach to training and competition that Danish-rooted RaceRunning lives for, it gains with its fierce insistence on time spent in bed. Eight-year-old me would have given 23-year-old me a pat on the back, a poor hand-eye co-ordinated high-five and gone back under her pillow to dream of the future in which I now live. To give cycling credit, when I clawed my way to the end of the Paralympics in Rio, there was an all-night party. But, by now a hardened British cyclist, I slept through it all.

I excelled at both my sports because I was enabled by those around me. British Cycling and Scottish Cycling and RaceRunning have incredible individuals working for them. They recognise that racing is my fuel, as much as food and water. I no longer dream of flying out of the window on my bed any more. I could just pack up my trike and, with training plan in hand and a little bit of wheelchair-assistance, board the next flight.

It was all going too well. With training trike in tow and having just disembarked in California, a message came in from the head of police back home in Glasgow. My only other trike, my Rio race trike, had been melted.

Thieves had taken it and started a big trike-car-petrol-station Molotov cocktail to bring in the New Year. Not the first footing I had envisioned.

Then British Cycling sent me an early Valentines: they had decided to remove me from the programme. January’s power test had been a personal best but not enough.

Strangely, when the news came through that my funding would stop and the insurance would not cover my trike, there was no anger, only a weary acceptance.

You can never take anything for granted. However much you are living the dream there is always the fear that it will be taken away because, of course, it was all given to you in the first place. Incredible feats of engineering allow me to access the most basic of motor patterns, in the same way advances in modern medicine allow a new generation of individuals with impressively big brain injuries or significant disabilities, to grow-up to become successful human beings and learn how to win lots of medals. Now I have found the power of movement, I can see it is crucial the governing bodies keep moving, too.

Athletes are a commodity to win medals so the sport can keep its funding and the jobs that go with it. Our worth as athletes, then, is not how much we commit or how hard we work or how thrilling it is to watch our race on Channel 4 but only that we come ready-made, guaranteed to win gold medals in the first few years.

I don’t know about you, but to me, our Olympians and Paralympians represent the rocky ascent up Mount Olympus, lives devoted to the pursuit of human performance, blind to the summit which exists beyond the known, beyond a predictable medal quota.

When we lose that, what do we have left and who do we leave behind? Those whose muscles have longed to burn but could not join in with PE at school, then bed-bound by surgery through teenage years, finally finding their spark in young adulthood, only to be put out after their first Olympic flame had come to light.

But who is it that carries the torch across the world? The full, fiery force of 358 donations replaced my trike in two days.

At first, I wanted to call my trike “People Make Glasgow” but that quickly became ridiculous because the donations were clearly further afield than my Strava heat map (sorry…road-jargon for where I do most of my training rides). Some came from my other trike competitors, especially the most successful ones – the silver medallist, Jill, in my race in Rio (USA). Carol (Aus), the gold medallist will be helping me to race – we will be rooming and sharing costs this season.

Dame Sarah Storey donated too and then went one step further and asked me to join her official road race team, which has its own race fund. The top of the mountain has spoken.

Officially, I will be racing as independent this season. However, I would rather call myself “the United Nation of People Who Need to see this Trike Tip things up in Tokyo”.

Consider this athlete reignited with gratitude (hopefully I don’t melt my new trike). Thank you.

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