#7) Amy Conroy


Sport has the power to change lives in a way almost nothing else can.

Everywhere you look – whether it be at the elite level or a club’s 8th XI – there are stories of triumph over adversity, feats of bravery, tales of courage and those who have turned their fortunes around for the better.

Few people know more about the positive impact of sport though than GB wheelchair basketball star Amy Conroy.

She may be aged just 25 but already Conroy is a two-time Paralympian, an U25 world champion and a European bronze medallist. Furthermore, next month she will also be part of the team aiming to cause a few upsets and bring home a medal from the World Championships in Hamburg.

And that has all come after having lost her Mum to cancer at a young age and having overcome a particularly aggressive form of cancer that saw her lose a leg.

At just 12, the fit and active youngster started suffering from pain in her knee that was initially put down to how much exercise she was doing.

But eventually a trip to A&E resulted in doctors conducting x-rays, something that would ultimately change her life.

“I just remember the diagnosis really clearly,” she recalled.

“I found out that I had osteosarcoma – a tumour, cancer – and it spread pretty badly to a few places. I was given 50% chance of survival.

“I was there with my Dad and we just looked at each other – my Mum had passed away previously of cancer – and it was just that moment you don’t forget.”

A year later and Conroy – known by her team-mates as ‘Tiger’ – had overcome the toughest battle of her life and was in remission.

But it wasn’t a straightforward journey to that point. She spent pretty much every day in hospital, suffered from horrible bouts of sickness – “the first day I counted it was 75 times!” – and had to have her leg amputated halfway through after chemotherapy was unsuccessful.

“An x-ray showed my thighbone and there was just nothing left of it,” the former Loughborough University student recalled.

“I guess it’s a big thing to have your leg amputated but at the time it was just one of those things and I’ve never looked back since.

“I don’t think I’d change anything now, I’ve adapted and I really love the way my life is turning out.”

Conroy certainly has every reason to feel positive. Having beaten off such a horrible illness, she is now one of the game’s most feared scorers, finding the net seemingly without fail every time she plays.

She was also part of the team that made history by finishing fourth at Rio 2016, the highest position the women’s wheelchair basketball outfit has ever achieved at a Paralympic Games.

The enthusiasm and passion she has for wheelchair basketball is evident when the Norwich-born athletes speaks but it could have been so different had she not persevered after a dubious start.

“I wasn’t a fan at first,” she admitted.

“I didn’t know much about disability sport, I thought it was just going to be like ‘everyone come and have a try, the basket’s going to be on the floor, it’s quite gentle’ but once I got into it I loved the aggression of it.

“I guess when you’re a sick kid and people see you, you’ve got a bald head and you’re in this big Red Cross wheelchair, they are quite precious of you but I just loved how everyone was equal and how people went at you. I haven’t looked back and got really addicted to it.”

One of the biggest influencers in Conroy’s career to date has undoubtedly been her Dad, who helped her through the difficult days of the illness, encouraged her to attend that first session and has been with her every step of the way.

“We do have a special bond. He’s amazing. Because it’s just him, my sister and me all these experiences have just brought us closer and he’s been there from day one when I first started,” she said.

“Each evening he’d take me to the outside courts when there were all these guys there and dog poo on the floor. At the time he probably thought ‘God she’s hopeless!’ but he stuck with it.

“It’s always special when I see him in the crowd or after a good game because it does mean quite a bit to him.”

While the attentions of Conroy and her team-mates will solely be on the basketball in Hamburg, each of them know that whatever happens performance-wise they have already overcome some of the toughest challenges life has thrown at them.

“In day-to-day you just forget about all these things. We’re just focusing on our game and we’ll take little things really seriously like losses which we can get really frustrated and down about,” she admitted.

“But then when you step back from it and realise everyone’s story, they are really inspirational girls.

“We don’t say this cheesy stuff to each other but when you put it into perspective I am really proud to play alongside them.”

Great Britain begin their World Championship campaign against Brazil at 10:15 BST on Thursday 16 August.

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