Few embrace life quite like Great Britain wheelchair basketball star Robyn Love. Whether on or off the court, the 29-year-old never shies away from putting her personality front and centre, welcoming life with a smile at every turn.
Robyn got engaged to fellow team-mate Laurie Williams at the start of this year, with the two using their social media presence to fantastic effect by helping to empower those around them. And if the pair can inspire just one person on their journey in life, then it’s a job well done for Robyn.
"Having positive role models wherever you are is really important. It was for me. If I can be that positive role model for someone, then I'm really proud to be so,” she said.
"I hadn't come out until I was 21. I was part of the Edinburgh Napier basketball team since I started university and in that team the people were just themselves, others in the team knew that some people were gay.
"My older sister is gay, I had gone to university by the time she came out, so I didn't have her there to be inspired by. But at uni, just having those role models encouraged me to be myself. Seeing them being open made me want to be open. It was due to one of them that I came out for the first time.
“When it comes to inspiration, you don't have to do extreme things, if by being yourself can help other people than that's great, and if I can just be me and that helps a boy or girl, man or woman, then I'm very lucky.”
Robyn first learned about wheelchair basketball when watching the sport on TV at London 2012. She joined the party rather quickly and by the next Games in Rio she was firmly part of ParalympicsGB’s plans. But it wasn’t always so easy to make the leap into disability sport.
Sport flows through the Scot’s blood and for her passion to be potentially taken away hit her hard through her formative years. Robyn has a condition called arthrogryposis which affects legs and joints. Her right leg is shorter than her left and she is missing muscles in both.
Yet determination shone through - as it so often does with Robyn – as she embraced her circumstances and tackled any obstacles in pursuit of sporting dreams.
"Growing up, I did not accept that I had a disability. I did everything I could to prove that I could do what any able-bodied person could, and better,” she added. “I think that made me as good at sport as I am. Whether football, tennis or something else, I've always been sporty right from school.
"I was always the one at lunchtime with my hair in a mess, my face really red and being energetic, I didn't care what people thought because I'd shown that I could do it and I wanted to do it. I'm just as good as everyone….it was showing that I could do things.”
Fast forward from school to university - with an attempted leg extension in between - and the sporting desires didn’t stop there. Wheelchair basketball came into her life soon after and its impact hasn’t stopped since, with Robyn hoping for a second Paralympic place when the rescheduled Games eventually take place next year.
"Even when I started playing wheelchair basketball, I didn't see it as a disability sport,” she added. "Although now I 100 per cent accept my disability because it's in my face every day, it's who I am, and I wouldn't change it at all.
"Wheelchair basketball is a sport like any other. You might pick up your skates for ice hockey, you might pick up your bike if you're a road cyclist, I just pick up my chair as a wheelchair basketball player.
"I played tennis at a reasonable level and my coach told my uncle, ‘she'd be good if she didn't have that’. Now, I'm excelling as an elite athlete because of who I am and because of my disability, not in spite of it. That's really important. It's something I think about often and it makes me smile, we are who we are and that's how it's meant to be.
"I take the opportunities that I'm given. The only thing I regret is not taking up adaptive sport and disability sport when I was younger. But maybe I wouldn't be who I am if I had.”
The second instalment of this two-part feature with Robyn will be released next Tuesday (1 September). She talks about life in lockdown, adopting a puppy and drawing on the positives of having an extra year to prepare for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
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