Inspirational wheelchair-basketball player Maddie Thompson believes the experience of motherhood can help her to Paralympic G\mes gold in Tokyo next year.
Thompson, who went to Lady Manners School in Bakewell, became the youngest-ever athlete to represent Great Britain at her sport at just 13 in 2008, and went on to make her Paralympics debut at London 2012.
Now 24, she has since become a five-time European bronze medallist and, last year, was part of the British team that won a silver medal at the World Championships in Hamburg.
But Tokyo is the main aim now, and Thompson believes that becoming a mum for the first time has strengthened her reputation for unwavering tenacity and warrior-like aggression on the court.
“My biggest interest and motivation is my three-year-old child, Zachary,” said Thompson.
“The thought of winning a medal in Tokyo and putting it round his neck is what keeps me going. I just think that would be the biggest thankyou for all the time I’ve stayed away from him.
“On the days when you’ve gone out in the rain and you’re pushing up and down the court, I just think he’s what I want to do it for and he’s what I want to aspire to.
“He’s sacrificed so much, and I’ve sacrificed so much time being away from him, that I really think it’s a team effort when we go out there and play.
“It was quite tough, emotionally, at the start, but now he’s really understanding of it and always sits there and cheers me on.”
Thompson’s rise has been a rapid one as she won bronze medals at the European Championships in 2009 and 2011 and was part of a team that placed seventh at London 2012.
But while having a baby prevented her going to Rio in 2016, the Sheffield Steelers ace came back with a bang, helping Britain finish second in Hamburg with her characteristic passion.
With Tokyo on the horizon, she is hoping her love for the physical side of the game can help propel her team to a medal on the greatest stage of all.
“Off court, I’m described as quite motherly and thoughtful, whereas on court, I just love being vocal and being a leader,” added Thompson, who is helping to promote Sainsbury’s as the longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all.
“I love the fact that wheelchair basketball is such an aggressive sport. I love clattering people and that physical side of it. It’s really empowering.
“Tokyo will be a challenge, but we have 100 per cent trust in each other that we can perform our best.”