My 5 role models… with STEF REID

My 5 role models and the ways they inspired me

Totally Runable’s Natalie Jackson spoke to 5-time world record holder, world champion, triple Paralympic long jump and 200m sprint medallist (and Celebrity Masterchef finalist!) Stefanie Reid, about the role models who showed her how to make her dreams a reality.

1. Chantal Petitclerc

Chantal is the best wheelchair racer in history, with 32 medals from the Paralympics and World Championships. She won 5 golds in Athens in 2004, and then again in Beijing in 2008. I first met her towards the end of her career and at the start of mine, when we shared a flat at the Beijing Paralympics. I was 22 and it was an absolute privilege to get an up-close look at how she did things. I remember how she went from absolute focus to chilling; the way she handled herself and the pressure was inspiring.

She took me out for coffee – I didn’t even drink coffee! She answered all my questions about her career and then said “but you have to find your own path. If you aren’t being yourself, you’ll end up being a second-rate version of me or someone else”. It was the push I needed to do things my way.

14 years later she’s still in touch - she wished me a happy birthday on Facebook which made my day!

2. Greta Thunburg

Greta’s an environmental activist, and I’ve never met her, but I just love her commitment. She was that girl sitting outside parliament protesting when NO. ONE. ELSE. CARED. Greta is a reminder that it’s the habits and attitudes you have before the spotlight which really matter. I admire her because she is a young woman that is filled with wisdom, passion, she’s totally fearless, and she’s the exact opposite of most role models you see on social media. Greta reminds me not to compromise myself for convenience.

3. Jeff Adams

I officially met Jeff at the 2006 Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, my first international competition. Jeff was coming to the end of his super successful career, and gave me some great advice. I’m sure he could see my potential, but that I really didn’t know what I was doing; I wouldn’t say I was on a world class training programme at that point! He took me aside to explain what it would take to be successful, but didn’t just tell me, he took me to his gym and showed me what it looked like.

I had actually seen Jeff years before, in Toronto where I grew up. I was around 17 and working at Canadian Tire (our equivalent of B&Q) when he came through my checkout. Before I lost my leg, just before I turned 16, I didn’t know a single disabled person. Those first few years of being an amputee were all about breaking down my own barriers about disabilities and para sport. I’d subscribed to a national amputee group magazine and Jeff had been on the cover the week before he came through the checkout. I didn’t have a sport leg or do any sport then, but seeing him was huge. Jeff and the others in my magazines were incredibly strong and competitive; words you don’t always associate with disability. Seeing them in print, and Jeff in real life, really changed my thought patterns.

4. My #Unlocked 2020 cohort of female athletes (yes, all 40).

#Unlocked was a Women’s Sport Trust project pairing 41 female athletes with ‘activators’. Andy Reed, my activator, has already been such a mentor to me in my VP role with UK Athletics. What I didn’t expect was the sense of belonging that I had from being a part of this group of women. When Covid-19 lockdown happened in March 2020, we had weekly online chats where we talked and hung out. We encouraged and challenged each other in our big goals. It taught me the power of surrounding myself with people who want you to grow and insist that you do, and of seeing others take risks to succeed. I don’t always feel like I fit in everywhere, but there I knew I’d found my people.

5. Brent Lakatos

Brent is a wheelchair racer and 2020 London Marathon winner. He’s also my husband, but we are SO different! The best thing about being married to another elite athlete is seeing past the Instagram version of their life. I love seeing how Brent does things, and adding elements to what I’m doing.

Brent is like Spock from Star Trek; incredibly rational. In competition, you would never get in his head. He’s never going to be the person who hands his opponent a race; they have to take it from him. Outside his sport he’s a full-time software engineer because that makes him happy. He’s just so himself, and I really respect that.