Woman in Sport Award Winner | Womenspire 2019

16th March 2020

At the end of March last year, an email dropped into my mailbox with the words “Dear Julie, someone thinks you’re amazing!” My first thoughts were that it was some strange spam message, but it turned out to be the beginning of a truly wonderful experience.

Reading on I discovered I had been nominated for a Womenspire award in the Woman in Sport category and the email was congratulating me on this achievement. It was a lovely touch and it brought a smile to my face. What happened next was quite remarkable and for me, quite surprising. A few weeks later, I received another email congratulating me on being finalist.

Wow, this was so unexpected, a real honour to be short-listed for a national award. I was over the moon.

The evening itself at St. Fagans was a celebration of truly inspiring and motivating woman, and I was delighted and proud to be a part of it all. The weather was glorious and the atmosphere was electric. There were performance artists, inspirational quotes to read, fabulous snacks to sample and a beautiful setting. What more could you ask for?

Hosted by Shan Cothi, we were treated to film clips of the nominees sharing their inspiring stories (no wonder it was a difficult job for the judges) and the winners of each category were announced. Winners came from across Wales. I was truly surprised and delighted on hearing my name.

As a completely blind athlete who competes in both the world of sighted and para sport, I was totally overwhelmed to win this national award. I couldn’t stop smiling.

What I didn’t know was the evening was not over. As I relaxed and enjoyed listening to all the incredible work that was going on across Wales we drew to a close. Shan began to talk about all the award winners and how they had picked one to be the Champion of Champions. I wasn’t even aware that this was going to happen. They then began to describe how it was so hard to do this as everyone was so different, but one person did stand out for overcoming such adversity and shining through. I remember thinking to myself, ‘well done to that person.’ Then they said my name. You could have knocked me down with a feather; I was well and truly stunned, totally unprepared, but totally humbled.

To hear so many people cheering, clapping, and standing for me was so amazing. I was so touched by it all. To think I have inspired so many people was truly incredible.

Since losing my sight so unexpectedly some 10 years ago I have strived to find a new path for myself. Sport has transformed my life and I urge people to try it themselves. Who knew I could be a Gold medallist? It is true that sometimes in adversity there is triumph.

An early morning interview the next day for Radio wales, and ITV News the next evening were two opportunities to encourage others to get active and to celebrate the inspirational stories and achievements of the evening.

Since winning, my year has been very busy, but a few highlights have been:

Speaking at the Senedd about my Inspirational Sporting Journey during an evening of celebration with Disability Sport Wales and collecting an award from Disability Sport Wales.

Australia visited the UK, and I was selected to play for Wales in a series against them. Following this success, it was an honour to be selected to play for Wales just two months later in a Home Nations Team, and even more so in being Team Captain. Winning all my matches was also a great bonus.

Speaking to schools, groups and bowls clubs about inclusive sport is always exciting and if one person starts bowls or indeed any sport, my job is done.

So, all in all the email that dropped into my inbox in March began a wonderful year that gave me such a boost to continue working hard, inspiring and encouraging others into sport!

16th Mar 2020