Eleanor Hewitt has not let anything hold her back, certainly not the fact that she has a rare genetic degenerative condition which is slowly robbing her of the use of her arms and legs.
“I have been so determined that it [Ataxia-Telangiectasia] is not going to stop me or hinder me from doing everything that I want physically,” says the 31-year-old from Henleaze.
Up until her early teens Eleanor could walk and take part in sport however, as the condition took hold, she began to find it more and more difficult to balance and coordinate her movements.
“I’ve got a very determined attitude and I’ve got the feeling that preventing the degeneration of my condition is better than curing the resulting symptoms,” she says.
She believes that swimming, going to the gym and cycling regularly has all helped her manage the condition: “It’s always a struggle to initiate exercise…everything I do is just an effort but I enjoy the feeling because I feel that I am slowing down the progression of my condition.”
She’s gone far beyond just recreational exercise though. Through various sporting challenges she has raised hundreds of pounds for charity and is training for her next fund raiser – a 10,000 metre row raising money for Meningitis Now.
When the Hengrove Family Cycling Centre in Whitchurch opened last year Eleanor could finally indulge in her passion for hand cycling using one of the centre’s specially adapted bicycles. Watching her power round the track it’s easy to see why she revels in the sense of freedom away from her wheelchair.
“I like that I am doing something good for my mind and body when I am on the track. It gives me a sense that I can start breaking down some of that stigma that is attached to some wheelchair users.
“There are definitely people who don’t think they can participate in cycling because their arms or legs don’t work, but there are wheelchair transporter bikes that can give the user a real sense of independence and getting away from stuff.
“I’m just the same as anyone else when I’m on the track,” she adds. “People can’t see the wheelchair and they get to know you as a person – they know I use a wheelchair but I can do all of this and that inspires people I think.
“I love proving people wrong.”
Eleanor’s next challenge is a 10,000, row and you can donate here
Bristol is European City of Sport 2017
A full programme of events for the year includes, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, with the Bristol County Ground, home to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, one of five venues to host the global competition. Every month Bristol24/7 will be featuring the community sporting groups, organisations and individuals which are helping make Bristol European City of Sport 2017.
More information: www.bristolcityofsport17.co.uk
Read more: Bristol leading the way in disabled sports