23 November 2012
An interview with 74-year-old veteran sports star, Sheila Champion, one of 50 inspirational athletes featured in a free photo exhibition at Aston
As part of Well-Being Week Aston University is hosting a free art exhibition designed to challenge perceptions of ageing through a series of photographs by artist, Alex Rotas. It showcases athletes in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90’s who are still competing in international veteran sports competitions.
Sports star Sheila Champion, is one of 50 athletes featured in the exhibition at Aston University.
The 74 years old has run 20 marathons, her last one at the age of 70, and still competes in international sports competitions in javelin and track events across the world.
Originally from Ireland, Sheila has overcome three strokes, her recent one just three years yet she still remains very determined and focused as she rises above obstacles.
The former teacher and secretary believes that is her positive thinking that has enabled her to overcome her challenges and maintain her determination.
When did you to get involved with athletics/ sports?
“From a young age I have always been active. From seven years old, I was heavily involved in tennis and table tennis, and competed in national championships. I later, picked up badminton and I also enjoy hockey, golf, swimming. I later picked up rhythmic gymnastics and became a junior coach for under fourteens for a couple of years".
What motivated you to start competing in international sports competitions?
“I love competing! It gives me something to look forward to and strive for which is exciting for me. I have competed in many athletics competitions around the world, Russia, San Francisco, Sweden, Japan, Hungary, and France. I’ve also ran in marathons in New York and Boston".
How often you do train/what is your daily regime?
“Well I’m part of a local sports club, there I train four times a week, and we practice running, stretching techniques. Although I also do yoga, tai chi, and enjoy painting".
Has your decision inspired others to participate?
“People tell me all the time that I am an inspiration, that they would want to be like me, but for me I don’t view myself as an inspiration".
I have three boys all of who were active from a young age and all keen on table tennis".
What do you think has been your biggest challenge?
“I have had three strokes, my first I had when I was 34 years old, my second I had five years ago and my final one I had three years during pole vaults. The hardest thing has been getting back to my natural form, after my first stroke I couldn’t spell my name and it’s harder to spell things now. After my first stroke I took a year out of running, now I’m back on tracks now although sometimes I have to stretch longer to warm up because sometimes I can be running and my arm or something else stiffens. Its small things like this that as a result of my strokes, have been affected".
What has been your secret to overcoming all these challenges?
"It is really all down to positive thinking, It was the people I had around me at the time that were the biggest support to me. There is always a way out of something, you just have to remain determined and keep positive".
Sheila is due to compete in the Veteran World Indoor Championships in Spain next year, so plans to begin training after the Christmas Holidays.
The Art Exhibition featuring Sheila and 50 other veteran athletes is being held at Aston University (Lower Foyer, Main Building) in Birmingham, into the New Year, running Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Words by Eva Tabora
For further Media information please contact Eva Tabora, University Communications on 0121 204 4294