A number of athletes and health professionals linked to UK independent schools are taking part in the Paralympics in Tokyo this year, which runs from 24 August to 5 September.
Former Millfield School pupil Suzanna Hext is competing in her first Paralympic Games this year. She joined Millfield on a sixth form riding scholarship from 2005-2007.
Hext suffered a life-changing riding accident in 2012 which left her paralysed from the waist down. Although doctors told her she would never ride again, Hext got back in the saddle just two years later and was longlisted to compete in the dressage team for the Rio 2016 Paralympics and went on to become Triple European Para Dressage Gold Medallist in 2017.
In 2019, she swapped the saddle for the swimming pool and achieved two medals (freestyle silver and bronze) at her debut World Para Swimming Championships in London.
At this year’s Paralympics, Hext has already placed fourth in the 200m freestyle event and the 100m freestyle. She will also be competing in the 20 point relay (today at midday), 100m breaststroke and 50m backstroke.
At Millfield Hext was trained by director of equestrian, Danny Anholt, who said: “From the start it was clear that Suzanna would always give her all to any challenge that was presented to her. She possessed a rare combination of absolute determination and cheerful acceptance. Win or lose, Suzanna would always come out with a smile and seek the next step to progress.”
Another independent school involved in the Paralympics this year is Mill Hill School in London. The school’s physiotherapist, Maria Goriup, is in Tokyo supporting Japanese wheelchair fencing athlete, Anri Sakurai.
Goriup has worked at Mill Hill School for one year and was a physiotherapist at British Fencing for over seven years.
“It’s really cool to be part of the host nation’s team and learn about their culture and approach to high performance sports,” said Goriup.
“It’s also awesome to be supporting a different sport and developing my skills in how to work with para athletes to get the most out of their performance.
“Anri Sakurai has fenced for only four years and last year had to swap the arm she fences with due to injury – that is a hard job! She trains in London, at the world class Leon Paul Centre, which is why I am her physio. Anri is in Category B for wheelchair fencing as she has a spinal cord injury.”
Today is Anri’s first competition day, where she will fence the Epee weapon. She will also compete on Saturday in the Foil event.
“Look out for her and our British wheelchair athletes – Piers Gilliver, Dimitri Coutya, Oliver Lam Watson and Gemma Collins – all of this week,” said Goriup.
Is your independent school represented in the Paralympics? Get in touch at email@example.com