Meet Eilidh: the Olympic hopeful inspiring the next generation of women in sport
Thanks to National Lottery players, £36 million a week goes to a wide range of good causes including supporting our elite athletes, many of who go on to represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
For Eilidh Gibson, this funding gave her the opportunity to inspire a whole new generation of female paddlers. “Being funded by the National Lottery allowed me to have the headspace and the time to create Slalom Inspires”.
When a shoulder injury shattered Eilidh’s hopes of competing at the Tokyo Olympics – a dream she had been working towards since she was 13 – the slalom canoe athlete admits she was in a dark place.
Thanks to funding from National Lottery players, Eilidh is able to train full time, have access to world-class training facilities and medical and technology support. But the past few years have not been easy.
Having struggled with shoulder pain for years, the National Lottery-funded athlete eventually had to undergo surgery in 2018 and again in 2019. Forced to take time away from paddling, this ultimately ended Eilidh’s chances at being selected for the Tokyo Olympic canoe squad.
The 25-year-old says she felt a lot of pain and grief during this time. “When so much of your identity is being an athlete and being fit, and getting up every day and training…to not be able to do that was really challenging.”
Suddenly having a lot of time on her hands and always passionate about women and girls in sport and the impact it can have on mental health, Eilidh set up an event for female paddlers. Over 60 girls from all over the UK turned up and Slalom Inspires was born.
Now, the organisation encourages young girls to feel good about their bodies as they become teenagers – it’s ok to sweat or to have muscles – and helps them to develop friendships whilst reaping the benefits of the outdoors.
And for Eilidh, it’s helped her to fall in love with canoeing again. Paris 2024 Olympics Games? Watch this space.
Watch the video below to see Eilidh receive a very special surprise from her hero - 5 x Olympic medallist Dame Katherine Grainger.
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