Maria – My Story
In April 2018 Maria competed for England in her first Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast. Here is her story:
“My name is Maria, I’m 21 years old and I am currently studying BA Photography at the University of West London.
So you’re probably thinking what disabilities do I have… I have three (one is too simple, so I like to mix it up a little to make it more interesting by adding another two.). My main disability is Cerebral Palsy. I’m very fortunate that it’s a mild condition which allows me to be able to walk without assistance and that I can do most things that an able-bodied person can do, it just might take me a little longer with a bit more effort.
In addition to this, I have two hearing aids and a neck condition known as Klippel Feil Syndrome. In short, this means that I have two bones fused together in my vertebrae which make my neck slanted which can be quite stiff and can be painful at times.
Despite having cerebral palsy since birth, I have always been addicted to the sport. Starting off with wanting to be a footballer, I began to realise in primary school that I did not have the same level of ability as the other children in my class. After falling out of love with the sport when I realised I could not keep up with everyone else, I was picked up in year 8 by a Sports talent ID day.
Despite trying my hardest to get out of going, I slowly started having my eyes opened up to disability sport which I never knew existed until I started to attend North Herts Boccia club.
With my first ever competition being at Boccia Nationals, although it was a terrifying experience at first, It gave me my competitive nature back and started to fall in love with sports again.
Shortly after starting Boccia I was encouraged to start athletics… from then on everything is history!
From competing at DSE athletic nationals for several years, Sainsbury School Games to CPISRA World Games in Nottingham 2015 achieving a silver medal in T35 200m to the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast, Australia in the T35 100m Final accomplishing 6th place against exceptional athletes from around the world.
The overall experience was incredible whilst at the games; from the opening ceremony, living with world-class athletes, hugging koalas to competing in front of 35,000 people and the race being streamed live on BBC 1 in front of millions of people. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The Games helped me to open my eyes further in sport and has brought further excitement and motivation to continue in disability sport alongside encouraging more disabled people to get involved.
Images: Courtesy of Gary Mitchell
It was the biggest honour to represent England, one of the proudest moments of my life being able to stand on that start line with the lion on my vest. It was truly an experience I will never forget.
Training six days a week does have an impact on my studies. However, I overcome this by informing my lecturers the situation of my disability and the importance of my training schedule, thankfully I am fortunate that they understand.
The best way for me to cope with my disabilities is through sport. Sport allows me to work my muscles and grow in strength after each training session. Without regular training, I become more tired and less able to concentrate. My walking gets worse as my muscles become tighter and less relaxed. In addition, I become more isolated and less happy from stopping from doing the things I enjoy. Aside from the physical benefits of sport, I also gain psychological and social benefits from being active.
As I mentioned earlier I also study photography. I am particularly interested in 35mm film photography and documenting society. If you are interested in looking at the type of photography I do, please check out my Facebook and Instagram pages linked below. I also write blog posts about anything photography related, including how I cope with being a disabled photographer.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MariaVerdeillePhotography/
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/mariaverdeillephotography/?hl=en
Photography Blog: https://mariaverdeillephotographyblog.wordpress.com/
I also have a facebook page is regularly updated on my athletics progress: @mariaverdeilleT35. This page includes my training, explaining my classification and any opportunities that I am involved in. “