Tim Lodge, GB Paralympic Canoeist, joins Row Britannia
Tim has faced adversity since childhood and in more recent years, has had to overcome many personal challenges and setbacks. He has found inner strength and his determination and positive attitude have led to continued improvement as a GB Paralympic Canoeist. Tim has been training throughout the winter and heads to Australia for three months at the end of December to prepare for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Tim was interviewed in late 2018 by the Athlete Media Group. Having battled with disability, depression and anxiety, canoeing made Tim feel equal. Born with talipes, club feet, Tim had the worst case his surgeon had ever seen and has been through 54 anaesthetics to assist in correcting his disability. “I started canoeing when I was nine,” Tim explains. “I’d always tried to do other sports but they were difficult and I always felt different. Physically I looked different, particularly the way I moved and ran compared to other kids.” Tim was operated on from birth, spending a lot of his school holidays in either hospital or plaster. “From the age of 11 to 13 my feet where completely reconstructed, it took a year to do each foot. In the middle of this, I started a new school where I only knew two people. On my very first day I was in a wheelchair with a plaster soaked in blood. I felt alien to all the other kids, it was very hard to try and fit in and join in with the other kids. I was bullied, had my crutches kicked away and taken off me many times and spent some dark days in my bedroom at home.” “As soon as I sat in a boat, I felt the same as everyone else for the first time in my life.”
“After this, I lost my Dad at 14 which was such a terrible shock and loss to me. It was something I didn’t really address or understand until later on in my life. To lose him so suddenly was terrifying.”
On January 14th, 2013, he received a call from an old canoeing coach David Battershell asking if he wanted to take up the sport again as it had become part of the Paralympic programme. That phone call changed Tim’s life.
“My life was empty when I received a call that gave me the biggest jolt I could’ve wished for. Sometimes you need a different direction and an opportunity came that had the potential”. “I was, still am and always will be an anxious person that battles to feel self-confident. Being born with a disability will take its toll on you. Losing your father, who supported you through that disability from birth, at 14 years old, had a massive effect on my life. Being involved in canoeing has enabled me to accept my disability, accept the loss of my father and accept the loss of my mother. An active body settles the active mind”.
“It’s difficult when you are really down and depressed, I’ve been there three or four times in my life and they’re dark times that I’ll always be very aware of.”
Away from elite competition, Tim is also Chair of the International Canoe Federation Athletes Committee and sits on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Federation. He has previously been the athlete representative with British Canoeing and a member of the British Athletes Commission.
“Mental health is so difficult to understand when you are going through it, you think you’ve got the answers and then all of a sudden it hits you again and old feelings come back twice a strong as before. This what happened to me, but rather than the depression and anxiety taking over I found a new desire to learn more about my mental health.”
Tim is an inspirational man and talks openly, with honesty and sincerity, about his life, journey and challenges. He has tackled mental health issues throughout his life and as a GB Paralympian, Tim shows extraordinary leadership in order to give fellow athletes the courage to ask for support and feel able to discuss their own mental health so they do not feel isolated. We are delighted that Tim has joined Row Britannia and will be visiting The University of Chichester on the 17th December 2019, before he sets off to Australia for 3 months to train for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.