Rio 2016 Paralympics: Londoner Vanessa Daobry’s journey from novice to Paralympic finalist in 18 months

Published in Evening Standard, 9/14/2016

vanessa-daobry

Vanessa Daobry has one word to describe her astonishing transformation from sporting novice to Rio medal hopeful – “unreal”.

Just 18 months after turning up “very unfit and very unconfident” for her first shot put training session, the 39-year-old from Haringey will make her Paralympic debut on Wednesday evening ranked fourth in the world in her F34 classification.

“I have to pinch myself about what has happened to me,” she says. “It all feels absolutely unreal because it’s been so quick. Just how did this happen?”

Daobry, a former wheelchair racing coach and athletics activator for England Athletics but with no previous background as a sporting competitor herself, was invited to a shot put try-out in December 2014 by Paralympic throwing coach Alison O’Riordan.

Their paths had crossed two years earlier, when O’Riordan, who is head coach of the British Armed Forces at the Invictus Games, observed that Daobry had the attributes to be a thrower.

O’Riordan recalls: “I sent her a text and said ‘when are you coming out to have a throw Nessa?’ Her physicality is what I wanted to see. If you give me the athlete, I can teach them anything.”

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