Inspiring athletes inspire youngsters ‘to be their own best’
Two inspiring Scottish international athletes have been in the isles this weekend as part of the Shetland Sports Conference.
Inverness judo medallist Stephanie Inglis and Shetland’s own Lynda Flaws gave speeches at the Shetland Museum and Archives on Friday night as special guests for the three-day conference.
The pair have also been holding motivational workshops with youngsters at the Anderson High School in connection with the Champions in Schools programme for which both were invited to be ambassadors following the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The first of three workshops was held in August with the latter two taking place over Sports Conference weekend.
In seeking to motivate aspiring young athletes to pursue their dreams Inglis and Flaws planned to share their stories to teach youngsters about the hard work and dedication required to succeed in your field.
For Inglis the message she hoped children would take away from the Champions in Schools programme was that “through hard work they can achieve whatever they want to achieve to be their own best”.
And in Inglis’ struggle to overcome a horrific injury people can find parallels with the programme’s message of bettering the odds.
In 2016 the Commonwealth Games silver medallist was given just a one per cent chance of survival following a traumatic motorcycle accident in Vietnam.
“I think there are a lot of messages that people can take from my story”, she said.
But she overcame those odds and taught herself how to walk again despite suffering devastating brain injuries after shattering the right-hand side of her skull.
The athlete also fought pneumonia and septicemia to return to full health, though she was forced to retire from judo after surgeons warned that another head injury could have fatal consequences.
Yet this has not stopped the athlete from returning to her passion, after announcing her return to judo as a coach.
“I’ve done [judo] since I was four, to never be involved in the sport again would be horrible. Coaching lets me stay in it.”
Meanwhile, six-time Scottish table tennis champion Flaws – who also represented Scotland at the 2014 games – was to give a talk on her achievements in the sport.
And with the youngsters she was keen to stress that living in the isles should not be seen as an insurmountable barrier.
She said that pursuing sporting success from Shetland does present “difficulties”, but there are “positives” too.
“We have amazing facilities, lots of clubs, lots of inspiring coaches. If I’d been staying in Glasgow or Edinburgh I might never have played table tennis.”
She added: “If you’re thinking about progressing a level there does come a point where you have to compete on the mainland, but it can be done.”
Reminiscing on their experiences in Glasgow in 2014 both Flaws and Inglis agreed that it represented the pinnacle of their lives in sport.
“It’s such a hard moment to explain”, said Inglis, adding that she felt honoured to represent “just Scotland” rather than competing under the umbrella of Team GB.
“It was even more special being in Scotland for the games”, she added.
“People would just come up to you and because you had your Commonwealth Games kit on they would speak to you, congratulating you when they didn’t even know if you’d done well”, Inglis remembered humorously of the pride the games instilled in the nation.
Flaws said: “For me when I was growing up and playing table tennis I never really imagined that I would play at that sort of level or be part of Team Scotland.”
That the games were in Glasgow, a city she considers to be a second home since moving there to study, was all the more special, Flaws added.
“I feel lucky to have experienced those games”, she said.
A number of other events have been taking place as part of the second Shetland Sports Conference, alongside the presentations and workshops led by Flaws and Inglis.
Workshops under the themes of performance sport, young people in sport, and inclusion in sport have been on offer, while representatives from the Scottish Institute of Sport and Scottish Disability Sport have delivered a range of coach development workshops.