Adaptive Rower, Sophie Harris, supports BRIT & champions the annual BRIT Challenge
We are delighted that Sophie is part of our BRIT Ambassador family to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK.
Sophie is an adaptive rower who, prior to recent surgery, was training with the Great Britain Para Rowing Development Squad. Post-surgery in late 2020, Sophie has been easing back into training, including coastal rowing.
“Having battled with a disability and pain for many years that resulted in deciding amputation was the best option, I can understand and appreciate how tough it must be for young adults and students who are living with anxieties, pressures and struggling with their mental health. As a student at Plymouth University, I know that there has been a significant increase in the number of young adults facing mental health challenges, and am mindful that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the existing difficulties faced by so many young people; particularly those living with disabilities or who are vulnerable.
Mental health services have become stretched during the pandemic and charities have an important role in supporting young adult mental health. The British Inspiration Trust’s annual BRIT Challenge is an innovative and inspiring opportunity to improve the mental health and fitness of millions of students and young adults.
The BRIT Challenge is an inclusive feelgood February fundraiser for every UK university, college, specialist college and Students’ Union to enter teams and encourage student and staff participation. It’s great to see that every university and college team can choose a second charity of their choice to raise funds for, alongside BRIT, to support local, regional and national charities.
I am delighted to be part of the BRIT Ambassador family and look forward to encouraging and supporting students and staff at Plymouth University and Plymouth City College as they take on their BRIT Challenge”.
Following years of battling with talipes (commonly known as Club Foot), arthritis and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), Sophie decided that amputation was the best option. A month before her surgery she realised a long-term ambition by joining a rowing club.
She got her first taste of the sport at Mayflower Offshore Rowing Club in Plymouth and later contacted British Rowing about Para-rowing. She wrote to British Rowing to say that she was about to become an amputee and after her surgery, an invitation came to be invited on to the GB Rowing Para Rowing Development Squad.
Following her surgery, Sophie raised money through grants and sponsorship to enable her to purchase a rowing-specific prosthetic leg, which saw her times continually improving under the guidance of coach Simon Gifford-Mead at Dart Totnes ARC and Ella Willott, who was the British Rowing’s England Talent Pathway coach for Para-rowing.
Simon died in May 2019 and this was a huge loss to the rowing community. In November 2019, Sophie withdrew from British Rowing’s Para-rowing Development Squad in preparation for surgery in January 2020. Due to COVID-19, her surgery was rescheduled and took place in October 2020.
Sophie graduated from Plymouth University in September 2021, with a BSc Hons degree in Sports Injury and Rehabilitation.
After recovering from her recent surgery, Sophie has been easing back into social and competitive rowing. Sophie will be returning to Plymouth Marjon University in September 2022 on a course affiliated with Plymouth University and will be embarking on her MSc degree in Pre Reg Physiotherapy.
Sophie is an Ambassador for Love Rowing; British Rowing’s new Charitable Foundation and is an Ambassador for Dorset Orthopaedic.