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Monday Inspiration: Gaina C battles Spina Bifida


Posted by Cags R under Paralympics, General on 31 December 2012 at 12:00 AM

2012 was made a little more special when we received this Tweet to the Tribesports Twitter account:

Gaina C Tweet to Tribesports

Pride doesn't even begin to cover how we feel towards Gaina's achievement! As one of our main ambassadors for Parasports on Tribesports, we've caught up with Gaina to find out more about her. Gaina suffers from a condition called Spina Bifida is a congenital birth defect which Gaina has had her whole life. A wheelchair has always featured as an aid to everyday living - somedays more than others - but for the past 3 years Gaina has relied on her wheelchair entirely.

Gaina C profile pictureSo how did it feel to stand for the first time in 3 years?

"Weird! You get used to seeing the world through the eyes of a toddler because that’s basically your eye level when you use a wheelchair. Because I have one leg slightly shorter than the other and my current boots aren’t quite right I was balancing on one leg which was a bit….dicey. Ha-ha."

Which Challenges have helped you build up your strength?

"Bicycle crunches, I love them! Because if problems with my lower back, conventional crunches are a no-no so I do ‘seated bicycle crunches’. When I first did them I thought ‘this is easy, I better do a few more just to make sure I work my core properly. I regretted that decision the next morning, I can tell you!" 

Gaina volunteers with a charity called 'Hawk and Owl Trust' where she met one of her very best friends and top supporter, Gill:

"She’s completed Royal Marines assault courses and Marathons, but in recent years Meniere's disease had put her out of action. Her journey back to fitness has been a complete inspiration to me and we definitely bonded over our shared experience of ‘Spoonie Days’ as we call them."

It was through Gill that Gaina read a fantastic book by Naturalist and Explorer Steve Backshall called ‘Looking for Adventure’ - totally inspired by Steve's adventures and his recovery from breaking his back in a climbing accident, Gaina decided to change her life too:

"I was inspired by his determination to recover, and thought to myself ‘well if he can come back from that then I’ve got no excuses!’ I think it must be very traumatic and frightening for an able bodied person to have a spinal injury and fight their way back to fitness. For someone like me who’s had fluctuations in ability but never really known anything other than living with some degree of disability it’s somewhat easier to deal with a setback. That gave me the kick up the bum I needed to start pushing myself again and explore the very edges of my physical and psychological boundaries."

Gaina and Steve Backshall

Adventurers seem to be a big hit with Gaina, her next big influence has been none-other than Dave Cornthwaite - an enthusiast for self-propultion and very long distances!

Dave Cornthwaite"I love people who go ‘all or nothing’ once they’ve made a decision, and Dave's experience of realising he was unfulfilled by the things everyone is supposed to aspire to in our culture - the job, the relationship etc. – and just dropping it all in order to find out what made him truly happy struck another chord with me. I wanted to know more about him so I started reading and it eventually brought me to his homepage. I introduced myself to him on Twitter and we have been chin-wagging ever since!

As far as Tribe sport members go, it’s a wonderfully supportive community and I’m 

loathed to name names because I will feel awful if leave out some truly lovely people, but

I have to give special mentions to Tycho H and Paul T for their inspiration and 

encouragement since I joined the community. They too have had health problems and 

physical challenges to deal with and I can definitely relate to them and be inspired."

So what will 2013 see from Gaina? First off, she's planning to raise £1000 for 'Coppafeel!' which is a breast cancer awareness charity - go Gaina!

"I have an ‘adventure bucket list’ of things I want to try but I really need to get myself in better shape before I start, so one night I was on Facebook and I said ‘I want to get fit, REALLY fit. Like ‘my own mother wouldn’t recognise me’ fit!’ Enter Mr Cornthwaite. He challenged me to have fun, get fit and raise some money for ‘Coppafeel!’ and I said ‘You’re on!’

Now, saying ‘You’re on!’ is one thing but then I had to think about how I was actually going to raise the money! The answer came a few days later when I went to a local mobility show and found out about a company called Team Hybrid that makes hand-cycles which clip onto a rigid-body wheelchair. And that’s when I found my method – I would undertake some sponsored bike rides. I’ve set myself a goal of 5 rides, ranging in length from 3.1 to 11.83 miles! There's a shiny new handbike on its way to my house and once its arrived I'll be throwing myself into my training.

Apart from that, there’s the ‘adventure bucket list’ to attend to. I am a water baby at heart, 

so I am really keen to try kayaking. I would also like to find out if one good leg, two strong 

arms and a ton of bloody-mindedness will get up an indoor climbing wall! I used to like to 

try and climb things when I was younger, despite having two heavy callipers on my leg and 

to be honest I don’t really think I’ve grown out of that so I’d love to conquer a climbing wall."

We're so proud of Gaina and can't wait to see her smash through her 2013 Challenges - have you set your goals for the New Year? Share them here!