Having gone from goalball rookie to a potential Paralympian in the space of less than a decade, Cambridge’s Sarah Leiter insists balancing the challenging demands of being an elite athlete have been well worth it.
The 29-year-old had always been an active child, but having struggled to engage in a mainstream sport due to her visual impairment, she was inspired to try a disability sport after watching the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Her attempts to join a local blind football team came up short due to the team’s lack of players, but having been advised to give goalball a go, Sarah instantly fell in love with a game she had previously never even heard of. She is now determined to help grow the game across the country as an established GB star.
“I’d only been playing goalball for about six months when I went to a Talent ID day, and within three weeks I was playing for England’s development team in Poland still not 100 per cent sure about the rules!” said Sarah - who is being supported by the Backing The Best programme through SportsAid this year.
“But I’m a very determined and competitive person. Once I knew there was a possibility of representing GB, I was focused on achieving that and although it took me a while to really get to the top of the sport, I’ve been hooked on every aspect of it from the start.
“I’m driven to help spread the word now. I do a lot of coaching for my local club in Cambridge and if anything, there are too many players for the facilities we can provide, which is really positive to see.”
Despite enjoying huge success in her journey up the goalball ladder, Sarah has been tasked with balancing the ever-increasing demands of her sporting career with her hectic schedule away from the court.
A junior doctor at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, Sarah admits her focus on the two passions in her life have forced her to make a number of sacrifices away from sport, but with the unequivocal support of her family and friends is determined to make the most of her potential.
She said: “I work 38 hours a week, and even though that is considered to be part-time I have to make sure I negotiate my shifts well in advance so I can utilise my time as best as possible.
“You have to be super organised and be willing to cut down on other bits of your life. Everyone around me is a massive help – whether that’s my parents not getting upset that I’ve used up all my annual leave to go and compete abroad, or my housemate leaving the washing machine free after training.
“It’s hard but it’s also been really enjoyable, and I can’t wait to continue on this pathway and see how far I can go, and how far the sport can go as well.”
Please keep an eye on SportsAid's website and social media channels - Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube - for more exclusive content from our currently supported athletes, their parents and guardians, and the charity's extensive alumni.