She was just nine years old when she watched the London 2012 Paralympic Games from her hospital bed, and has been dreaming of competing in Tokyo ever since.
Paralympic swimmer Suzanna Hext is preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics having watched London 2012 from her hospital bed.
‘There’s nothing stopping me.’
“I was in hospital for the London 2012 Paralympics, and it gave me the sense that everything was possible, no matter what I’d gone through.”
Suzanna Hext has gone through a lot in her life. As she watched the Paralympics from her hospital bed, she was 23 years old and coming to grips with being paralyzed from the waist down.
Her life was turned upside down when her horse collapsed and crushed her. Her spine was broken, her pelvis was fractured, her shoulder was crushed, and she suffered a brain injury that destroyed her world.
However, she will be the one on television in nine years when she travels to Tokyo to compete in the S5 category at the postponed 2020 Paralympics.
“When I was in hospital, I lost my sense of identity, which had always been sport, riding, anything athletic,” she told Radio Cornwall.
“Now, going to a Paralympics seems totally insane because it was a dream, and I just think it demonstrates that you can have a goal and accomplish it if you work hard for it and have the right support around you.”
Is it better to swim or ride?
Hext holds championships in both para-dressage and para-swimming.
Hext, now 32, had her pick of sports to compete in in Tokyo. She not only earned silver in the 50m freestyle and bronze in the 100m freestyle at the 2019 World Championships, but she also returned to riding after her injury and won three gold medals in para-dressage at the 2017 European Championships.
When asked whether she contemplated competing in two sports in the Paralympics, Hext replied, “I’m a perfectionist, and doing two sports at a Paralympics would be pushing it.”
“It was the goal, but it’s a 10-day swimming program that overlaps heavily with the para-dressage, but I’ll be keeping an eye on everyone.”
“I’m excited to support them on their trip as well,” she says, “but I’m enjoying the experience I’m experiencing in the water, which is certainly very different from riding; I don’t think you could have two more different sports.”
‘It hasn’t been a smooth ride.’
Only in 2017 did Hext devote her entire focus to swimming.
Hext, a Truro native, owns the British records in the S5 50m and 100m freestyles, as well as the SB4 100m backstroke, and will compete in all three events, as well as the S5 50m backstroke and perhaps some relays, in Tokyo.
Hext, who swims for Swindon ASC and trained with the British elite team at the Manchester Aquatics Centre, had to be creative with her training sessions since Covid-19 hampered her preparations.
She was allowed to utilize famous jockey AP McCoy’s pool at his house last summer, as well as swim along the coast of Cornwall during the first lockdown in March 2020.
“I was swimming up and down in his 12m pool in his back yard,” Hext recalled of the assistance she received from the 20-time champion jockey.
“We had Zoom sessions, we had a camera put up for the coach to observe – it’s how individuals had to adjust during lockdown,” says the coach.
Hext is philosophical about her life’s path, which has led to her representing ParalympicsGB on a worldwide stage:
“I believe coming to the Paralympic Games is a once-in-a-lifetime event for everyone, but having gone through what I have, it just makes it that much more meaningful and makes me value life that much more.”
“It hasn’t been an easy road, and there have been moments when I wished for my old physique – there’s no denying that – but I also believe I wanted to reclaim myself as a person – I’d lost myself.”
“You couldn’t get much better than getting me back, smiling, joyful, zest-for-life Suze, and going out and doing all I can after going through what I’ve gone through.”
- paralympic games