#46) Danielle Brown MBE


“In order to get the most out of yourself as a professional you have to get the most out of yourself as a person.”

This is the type of empowering message those lucky enough to listen to a Danielle Brown talk can expect to hear.

Her ethos is simple – anyone can achieve anything they want, so long as they believe in themselves and have the right mental aptitude.

Brown speaks from experience too, as someone who has repeatedly had to endure and overcome some very difficult situations throughout her life.

From being diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome as a teenager to losing her status as an elite athlete overnight, the Mintridge Foundation ambassador has not only used her mental strength to come through these, she’s made her life better as a result.

Furthermore she thrives under pressure, not just in her current role of delivering motivational talks and educational classes to children and corporates, but also in her sporting career as an archer too.

This is the exact reason why she is, statistically, one of the greatest athletes this country has ever produced.

She won two Paralympic golds, held all 12 world records at the same time and was the world number one archer throughout her career.

She also became the first para-athlete to represent England in an able-bodied event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, winning gold in the Women’s Team Compound event, and also won the British able-bodied title in 2013 by a single point.

The best example of Brown excelling under intense pressure though has to be her second Paralympic gold in front of a boisterous home crowd at London 2012.

She recalled: “It was so tense, not just the actual match but the whole lead up to it.

“A lot of people talk about a home crowd advantage but in many ways I thought it was a home crowd disadvantage.

“I was so proud and excited to be there but I ended up getting rid of all social media apps from my phone as when I’d get it out to look at the time I’d have hundreds of messages, which was amazing but it just piled that pressure on and on and on.

“The final came down to the last arrow and I was shooting against my team-mate. She’s very good under pressure – over the long distances I’d be miles ahead but with just 15 arrows in the matches it’s anybody’s game and you’ve really got to be on the ball.

“So when it came down to the last arrow it really could have gone anyway – ultimately it came down to who dealt with the pressure better and I sneaked mine closer to the middle. It was awesome but really, really nerve wracking.”

Despite having spent her entire sporting career showing mental resilience most of us can only dream of, it was nothing compared to what she had to delve deep to find after it was brought to an abrupt end just over a year later.

Shortly before the 2013 Para-Archery World Championships in Thailand it was announced that all athletes would be re-classified after the event.

Having always passed the tests previously, Brown was confident she would do so once again.

But against all expectations she failed and just like that her sporting career was over (an appeal against the decision was rejected in early 2014).

This alone would be extremely difficult to comprehend but Brown also had to deal with a horrendous testing process and the fact she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what had happened.

“The test was really quite humiliating and horrendously painful,” she said.

“They were pushing and pulling me around and I was in so much pain and then when I was unable to walk away from the physio bed the classifiers asked me why I was pretending to be paralyzed.

“The next day I learned that I’d failed and it was one of those moments where you’re told that your dream, your life, your career is over and my first reaction was ‘what do I do now?’

“The national governing body wouldn’t let me ring my parents to tell them I’d failed – I was told that I couldn’t tell anybody until the UK media reported the story.

“I think I went through that whole grief cycle – I was stunned, I was shocked, I spent an entire plane journey bursting into tears.

“I didn’t know what to do, my whole identity was tied up in the sport.”

This sudden loss of purpose and direction was something Brown initially found quite hard to deal with.

But once again her sheer determination and mental strength shone through and before long she was already planning on how to make the best out of her situation.

“My whole identity had changed – I was an elite athlete and then I wasn’t, I’m a disabled athlete but I wasn’t disabled enough,” the University of Leicester graduate explained.

“The whole fundamental core of who I was wasn’t there any more and that was really hard.

“Understanding who I was away from the bow and arrows and really understanding that my identity doesn’t have to be so intrinsically linked to my disability and investing that time in myself, getting to know myself and getting to understand my values away from sport, was a big game changer.

“And then it was resetting that purpose – I had a mortgage to pay – and for me setting up my own business made the most sense.

“Here was something challenging and rewarding where I could push myself out of my comfort zone like I’d done in sport but I was also able to help other people which was a really important value for me.”

 

Not only is Brown now teaching the importance of having the right mental mindset and dealing with pressure to business people and students, she is also a huge advocate of inclusion and diversity across all walks of life.

As someone who has continuously disproven that having a disability is a major barrier to any form of success in life, she is now keen to spread this message far and wide and stop others similar to her from suffering discouragement, prejudice and discrimination.

“It’s important to not make assumptions that just because somebody can’t do something it doesn’t mean that they can’t do sport or something else,” the 31-year-old explained.

“You need to be creative in your approach and think outside the box and look at what you can do.

“And we need to be inclusive – there are lots and lots of ways that sport can be inclusive that you don’t have to segregate people with disabilities and have a disability-only club.

“I think everybody has the capacity to achieve great things.”

Danielle is currently in training for the Great East Swim and is raising money for the Mintridge Foundation – click here to donate.

One Comment on “#46) Danielle Brown MBE

  1. Pingback: Is Sophie Hahn one of the greatest British athletes this era? – The 52 Blog

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