Pursue perseverance over prejudice

Gerald Wu 7 November 2013

Claire Harvey, captain of team GB’s sitting volleyball team at last year’s London Paralympics, firmly believes anyone can achieve anything if they have the right support as she spoke last week as part of the  Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Having only picked up volleyball four years ago, Harvey’s hard work is evident. Her training started at 4.30am in the lead up to the Paralympics to ensure she had time to earn a living working at Financial Services. “You always get athletes saying training is a sacrifice, but I don’t think so, I love what I am doing.” A look at her background and one would never imagine her pursuing volleyball as a profession. She confesses, ‘not even my PE teacher expected to see me there.”

Harvey was a prisoner governess for three years before misfortune struck. She was involved in a bicycle accident that left her completely paralysed in one leg, without peripheral vision and losing several nerve functions.

Needing a full six months to recover, life was always an uphill struggle from thereon. Now that she could not play her childhood sport rugby, she felt that sport had left a massive hole in her life. That was until she picked up sitting volleyball, as she preferred “physical and unpredictable team sports.”

Nonetheless, coping with a completely new sport, her disability and her homosexuality was difficult for Harvey. “Admitting you need help is a difficult balance, as you run the risk of not being selected for the team,” she admitted.

Harvey’s remarkable volleyball career shows no signs of tailing off as she signaled her intention to compete in Rio 2016 even thought she will be in her mid-40s by then. “There’s no stopping anyone,” as she confidently stated.