Paralysed student tackles wheelchair rugby
A FORMER teenage rock-climbing champion is taking on all-male wheelchair rugby, aiming for the GB squad – two years after breaking her neck in a car crash.
Beth Monks, 21, of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, competed for the British Rock-Climbing Team. “Climbing was all I knew and did … I started when I was seven,” she said.
The car crash in 2009 left her with a broken neck, and she is paralysed from the chest down.
Striving to rebuild her life, Beth now trains with one of the UK’s oldest wheelchair rugby squads, the Nottingham Marauders.
A year in spinal rehabilitation reinforced her athletic ambitions. “I’m stronger from starting rugby in September,” she said. “It’s a shock when [the players] barge into you, but fun … their strength is amazing.”
Beth is the only girl training with the Marauders and, according to Coach Neville Burrell, one of only five UK women pursuing this full-contact sport.
Beth explained: “Maybe because of my background in climbing, it was a male-dominated sport … guys can be a laugh.”
Burrell said wheelchair rugby, which developed in 1970s Canada, suits tetraplegics – those with a broken neck. He said: “We don’t have the function and muscle to play basketball. There was demand for a team-sport we could play together.”
Uniquely, men and women are classified equally and compete on the same teams.
Beth is learning to accept her situation. She said: “My life now revolves around what other people can do for me.”
She can neither grip nor feel her fingers. It is risky for her to go out unaccompanied and everything takes meticulous planning.
Nevertheless, Beth is tough. “I have really positive people around me. When I go to rugby and see how strong and independent they are … I want to be there now!”
She cannot wait for the future. She added: “I want to drive again, to sort out care, so I can travel like I wanted to before my accident.
“I want to become more independent, stronger and get better at rugby. But it’s a long road.”
At so early a stage, Beth’s recovery prognosis is uncertain, but so far, she is defying expectations.