Lockdown was all about keeping busy for Robyn what better way to stay active than adopting a puppy. She was, right about now, supposed to be enjoying her second Games as a ParalympicsGB athlete. Here, in the second instalment of a two-part feature, the Paralympian talks about life in lockdown, welcoming Whiskey into the family and drawing on the positives of having an extra year to prepare for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
01 September, 2020

Lockdown was all about keeping busy for Robyn what better way to stay active than adopting a puppy. Robyn was supposed to be enjoying her second Games as a ParalympicsGB athlete right about now, with the wheelchair basketball hopeful of bagging her first medal in Tokyo.

But with the world shut down and sporting ambitions put on ice for another 12 months, Robyn - alongside fiancee and teammate Laurie Williams - needed something else to fill the void.

“We needed to repurpose ourselves and channel our minds to something. I’m an outgoing, people person so needed something to do,” explained Robyn.

“And that’s where Whiskey came in. She might be the smallest labradoodle in the world, she's a tiny, cute, fluffy, ginger puppy, but the ultimate goal is to try and get her to be an assistance dog.

"If she's good enough and clever enough, we're hopefully going to get her trained up with some of the charities that are up here.

"She's been keeping us busy and getting us out and about, getting out for walks in the fresh air and discovering the world around Manchester has been really great for all of us.

"She hasn't been naughty and I'm shocked. She looks like a teddy bear and has her own Instagram page. She's not bothered by people or other dogs, she gets on with life which is perfect.”

Focus has returned to the basketball court for Robyn, with just under a year to go until the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games eventually take place.

Having finished fourth in Rio, a place on the podium is an undoubted aim for Robyn and the British team, who have steadily improved since those Games four years ago.

But the challenge of getting a whole team ready for a new goal is not one to be understated, with the 29-year-old knowing how much hard work needs to be put in to turn their dreams into reality.

She added: “Getting fourth was disappointing but it’s the highest we’ve been.

“When it comes to team sports, there are 12 people there to win that medal so you have to make sure enough people are peaking at just the right time.

“The Dutch beat us in the Paralympics and the World Championships so we know the challenge, we are behind one team at the moment and the others are rebuilding.

“We wouldn’t be going if we didn’t want to win a medal. I’m very competitive but I’m lucky that I love the sport as well.

“If I let my competitive side get the better of me too much, I’d end up not enjoying it too much, so I try to get the best out of every experience.

“If you look after the pennies, the pounds take care of themselves, so if you enjoy something then you want to work harder at it.”

The postponement of this year’s Paralympics was an obvious disappointment for all British athletes hoping to reach Tokyo.

But having taken her place in Rio as a novice, another year of learning is far from a disaster for Robyn. And in a sport she adores like no other, what’s an extra 12 months in the grand scheme of things?

"To have this extra year is great. I always try to take the positives out of all situations and this is another opportunity to get better,” she added.

"We have opportunity all-year round to compete and train with people, whereas individual sportspeople tend to build up to the one Paralympic event every four years.

"A lot of people in wheelchair basketball keep playing, the Paralympics is a major event in our calendar but a lot of people play our sport because they love it.

"I'd only been playing for 18 months to two years ahead of Rio, so to have this extra opportunity and another year to get better is actually quite exciting.

"I love doing this job so to train for an extra year, if that's what is necessary, is a pleasure for me.”

You can read the first instalment of this two-part feature here. Robyn talks about the importance of being who you are, her engagement to team-mate Laurie Williams, accepting her disability and excelling as an elite athlete.

What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes can continue receiving the backing they rely on. Find out more about how you can support the charity and have a significant impact on the country’s sporting future!