This week’s post in the series on women Olympians features Rachel Morris. Rachel entered the history books at the Beijing Paralympics when she became Britain’s first ever handcyclist to enter the competition. Not only did she take home the gold, but she then went on to become the only British handcyclist to be crowned double World Champion.
Rachel was born in Guildford, Surrey, and grew up in Farnham where she attended St. Peters School. She demonstrated a keen interest in sport and also helped disabled members of the local community as a Girl Guide. She completed a Duke of Edinburgh programme with the Royal Yachting Association at Frensham Ponds Sailing Club, which introduced her to sailing, a sport in which she reached international level.
On Rachel’s 17th birthday in April 1996 she suffered an ankle injury that triggered the onset of an extremely rare and painful illness, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS. This led to her left leg being amputated above the knee in January 2003 and a few years later, the disease had spread to her right leg, forcing a second amputation.
But Rachel’s interest in sport continued when she bought a handcycle attachment for her wheelchair. She quickly reached a level that where she was competing in 2007 in Barcelona and became the double World Champion, winning both the Time Trial and Road Race competition. It was this that led to her receiving formal Olympic funding, and she went on to win gold in Beijing 2008.
Rachel is looking to defend her title this summer in London and all her supporters on her home turf will be hoping the same.