A love of sport and a determination to succeed against the odds has earned Paralympic hopeful Millie Forrest a sports scholarship from Edge Hill University.
The first year Coach Education student from Preston is currently ranked second in the country, and ninth in the world, in the F37 discus category. Despite having cerebral palsy, which affects the left side of her body, Millie has always played sport to the best of her ability. Now her skill with the discus has marked her out as a potential future Paralympic champion.
“I’ve never let my disability get in my way,” says Millie, who threw a personal best of 21.3m at last year’s England Athletics Championships. “I was the only girl in the football team at primary school and I was in the girls’ football and netball teams at high school.
“My disability affects my grip and my ability to walk long distances but I’ve always been encouraged to play to my strengths by being in goal or in positions that don’t require too much running about.”
Millie discovered her talent for throwing during a school sports event at Sport City in Manchester. A disabled sport specialist from Wigan Harriers was impressed by her co-ordination and strength and invited her to train with the club.
“Through school I tried to compete in team events as much as my disability would allow but, for obvious reasons, I was unable to keep up with the improving standard of the other players,” says Millie. “When I was spotted for my throwing ability, it gave me an opportunity to compete on my own terms on a more level playing field.”
Millie started competing in 2012 and within two years was representing Team GB at the World Junior Games, where she won gold in the shot put and silver in the discus. She is now part of the British Athletics Parallel Success Academy Squad, which nurtures the next generation of sporting champions, and has been awarded a Sportsaid award to support her through the critical early years of her career.
“I never imagined I’d be representing my country, it was an amazing experience to compete alongside athletes who’d been at the Commonwealth Games,” says Millie. “I was so inspired by watching the 2012 Paralympics – I thought ‘I want to be there one day’.”
As well as training six days a week and juggling her academic work, Millie also finds time to volunteer at her local community gym, where she encourages able-bodied and disabled young people to get into sport.
“Sport has had such a positive impact on my life, ” she says. “Playing sport not only built up my confidence and helped me fit in by being part of a team, it also improved my general mobility and balance. I want to share that experience with other young people to show them the power of sport.”
Millie’s talent, along with her commitment to inspiring others to fulfil their potential, made her the perfect scholarship recipient.
“I never expected to get the scholarship,” she says. “It will enable me to travel further afield to compete at the highest level and, hopefully, help me achieve my dream of competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.”