As a teenage girl, life was hard.
The tears came flowing often.
In school, I was bullied for my appearance.
I was tall.
I was strong.
And where I come from, girls weren’t supposed to look that way.
My parents always made an effort to cheer me up, but in the back of my mind, I knew I’d have to go back to school tomorrow and face it all over again. Even as an athlete, it was the one thing I couldn’t outrun.
But one day, I came home from school — once again struggling because of my bullies — and my step-dad took me to a store and bought me a brand new pair of running shoes. I’ll never forget that moment because there were probably a thousand other things he should have been spending money on at the time. Things were tough financially, you know, but he made an effort to put the biggest smile on my face that day.
And it worked.
They were the nicest shoes I’d ever had in my life — my very first pair of actual running shoes. So, he bought the shoes, we drove out to a field, and I just started running.
I ran and ran—and ran.
Everything else in the world faded into the background, and I continued running like nothing else mattered.
I was there until sunset, and it was absolutely beautiful.
That was probably one of the happiest days of my life during one of my darkest periods.
The Tortoise and the Hare
I grew up in a small town in Wales, and it wasn’t easy.
Where I grew up, sports, particularly women’s sports, weren’t as highly-regarded as in the States. I would say I was lost as a child because there wasn’t anything I was really passionate about.
The bullying was never-ending because I grew up very fast in school. I was taller than everyone, including the boys. I don’t know — I guess I just felt really out of place, you know?
It was a difficult time for me, and there was nothing I really enjoyed that could take my mind off everything I was dealing with back then.
Well, not until I discovered track and field.
You see, the reason I remember the day I described above so vividly is because running was my escape. Whenever I ran, I felt safe. I felt free.
It all started my first year in middle school.
I got put on this long cross country run for my school team, and I remember my dad telling me, “Whatever you do, just don’t stop running. Remember the story of The Tortoise and the Hare? You can be slow, but just don’t stop, and you’ll be great.”
That was a pretty epic pep talk, right? 🙂
But that’s exactly what I did on the track. I just kept running and never looked back. It was the first time I had achieved something really big when I was young because I actually won that race.
That moment drove me and put me on the path that would lead to what I’m doing today — being a college athlete at Memphis in the United States.
The YouTube prospect
The first time I joined a local track and field club was when I realized I really was the tortoise. It’s when I started to see that I was actually slow compared to the other people running.
I remember seeing people throwing on the infield and thinking to myself, “Okay, now that looks fun!” And just like that, I switched to throwing.
As I got older, I was getting really good to the point where I was ranked No. 1 in certain categories in Europe.
There were university opportunities in the UK, but honestly, the best you’re going to get as an athlete back at home is like a free gym membership or something. Things are just different over there for student-athletes, you know?
But then I started conversations with schools in the US. It was mostly me initiating those exchanges, but there was one school that stood out because they contacted me first — Memphis.
“Good evening from across the pond.” I remember the first sentence like it was yesterday.
It had a very personal touch, and that meant the world to me.
Particularly going through what I went through as a teenage girl, I was looking for a place that cared about me as an individual, not just an athlete.
And everything within that email made me feel like Memphis would do just that.
So, I told my parents where I wanted to go to school, and then I hopped on a plane ride for my first trip to America.
Little did I know I’d be making the best decision of my life.
Strangely enough, I found the transition to be sort of easy. Maybe it was because I grew up in a household where I was the only child. So, in a way, I was sort of used to doing things by myself.
But being away from my family, in particular, was still very hard.
I miss my mother every single day, and my step-dad is probably the most influential person in my life. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
That goes for the rest of my family as well. I’m here because of their love and encouragement.
But my step-dad — he pushed me every single day.
He’s seen me at my worst and still managed to help push me through any adversity I faced. There were clearly times when I wanted to just give up, whether it was due to something physical in the sport or emotionally from the constant bullying.
I can honestly say he saved me. And that’s no exaggeration.
It’s crazy when I think about it now, but I learned hammer throwing through watching and studying YouTube videos with him. It was something we had to learn together, but considering where I’m at right now, I’d say we didn’t do too bad.
I really miss working with him because we started this journey together.
But it’s also nice being around a bunch of like-minded people now, especially when you came from a place where it’s considered weird when you’re a strong girl involved in sports.
People looked at me like I was crazy where I’m from, and now, I’m in a place where that same hard work and effort is admired and respected.
Honestly, I just feel blessed for having this opportunity.
Sky is the limit
My main goal through all of this has always been about making my parents proud. I don’t really talk about it, but it means the world to me to keep driving and working because my parents gave up a lot for me to do well in my sport.
Even when money was tight, they didn’t give up pushing and providing me with everything I needed. So, the least I can do is keep giving it my all.
So many people go through bullying and other hardships when they’re younger. I feel so lucky that I was able to have this sport to help get me through it and lead me to a place I would have never imagined being.
My hope is to be a role model for young females that are facing some of the same issues that I faced growing up. I feel like a lot of people quit before they even try.
That’s especially the case when people are picking on you or making fun of the way you look. It can be so hard to stay driven in those sorts of situations. I want to help empower other women to know they can rise above the physical and emotional abuse from bullying.
If I can help them find their passion and they can stick with it, who knows what it could grow to become?
I went from being bullied to being one of the best throwers in Europe and eventually landing a scholarship offer to come to Memphis as a student-athlete.
If I can do it, you can, too.
The sky is the limit.