"To leave a mark on the world with the group and win Paralympic gold was astonishing and to now be the WSA's Para-Athlete of the Year simply finishes it off," Kylie Grimes tells the Women's Sports Alliance. "At the point when I heard I was simply shouting and to be up there with astounding competitors like Dame Sarah Story and Ellie Simmonds is fantastic!"
Assisting Great Britain with guaranteeing a lady Paralympic gold award in wheelchair rugby was huge in itself, however Kylie Grimes' accomplishment was even more amazing given she was the main lady in history to get the game's most elevated honor.
We thought it was exceptional at that point and obviously so did you with thousands deciding in favor of her to turn into the very first champ of the Para-Athlete of the Year class at the WSA's 2021 Award Celebration.
Here Grimes informs us concerning her excursion to the culmination of her game. The three-time Paralympian additionally makes sense of why she feels more ladies ought to take up blended wheelchair rugby.
“It’s been 13 years of really hard work,” says Grimes, when reflecting on her career.
“It all started in 2006 after a diving accident where I broke my neck at 18. Despite that, I just knew I had to carry on with sport because it was all I’d done since a very young age.
“It wasn’t always an easy journey, but when I found wheelchair rugby I found a real passion, joined a team and incredibly just two years later I was selected for London 2012.
“For Rio (2016) I switched sports (to F51 club) and was in athletics for a little while, but then came back because I thought something really special could be possible with the boys.
“It was really hard work heading towards Tokyo and of course because of the pandemic we were told it could be cancelled, postponed, we didn’t know what was going on – but after all of that we all got there and the boys and I finally won gold!”
For those who will never win a Paralympic gold medal, just how special was that?
“Winning a medal is amazing, but winning a gold is just outstanding.
“People don’t know what we went through in terms of being able to train during the lockdown with no venues and having to push out on roads where it was absolutely freezing! Throughout the winter we’d be out there wrapped in coats and scarfs trying to maintain fitness and be ready.
“To get there and for it all to fall into place, I still have to pinch myself.
“We did have a little dip, we lost to the USA in one of our pool games, but that made us really fight again and come back stronger. To get gold in the final was just absolutely a dream come true.
“I was speechless and I’m not normally speechless!”
How much impact do you think this success will have on wheelchair rugby in the UK in terms of potentially increasing female participation?
“We’ve seen a huge boost in women participating in wheelchair rugby since London 2012 and after last year I had some amazing messages saying ‘because of you I’ve joined a club’ which is just everything.
“I want more women to be involved all the time, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
“We need more participants, more women and more youth in what is already such an amazing sport to watch. I think people are starting to realise that though because of the final in Tokyo and the million viewers that we had (on Channel 4), which was just incredible.
“There’s currently just one women’s tournament in Paris, but if we could have women’s tournament here in the UK too it would be an extra thing for a bit of fun, then let’s do it!”
Would you rather play in an all-women team or is mixed still the future of the sport?
“Mixed 100%, because it’s really exciting and we bring different aspects to the game.
“People always say to me, ‘what’s it like being the only woman on the team’ and people asking if it’s hard work or daunting. It’s really not. It’s absolutely empowering.
“The men are amazing, they support me, make me better and push me to be the best athlete I can possibly be for the team.
“I bring the calm, the quite and a brain, while the men tend to bring power and speed and aggression which is often needed in rugby.
“Having the men and women moulded together is an incredible thing and makes the team environment amazing.”
Finally – where is your WSA Award going to sit at home?
“Haha. I have a big cabinet in my office at home with few things that I’ve won.
“I actually won ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ for my town, so I have a big trophy and as well as a few other things, so it’ll have pride of place on there!”
Grimes was considering retirement after the Tokyo Paralympics and while she isn’t ready to fully commit to the Paris 2024 Games she will target the 2022 World Championships in October and reassess each year.