Our Athletes: The NHS Heroes

Published 30 March 2020

Vicky Wright

Many of you will be wondering what to do with your newfound time, but that’s far from the case for two of our athletes.

The postponement of this year’s Tokyo Games, and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to training regimes across all sports has allowed two of our athletes to join the frontline fight against the spread of the virus.

Hear from our two NHS heroes below…

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Kim Daybell is a two-time Paralympian with a difference. Not content with just being one of the world’s best para table tennis players, Kim completed his medical degree alongside his training and is now a fully qualified junior doctor.

Despite planning to take a sabbatical from his work at Whittington Hospital in North London to focus on the Games, the 27-year-old has answered the call from the NHS.

We caught up with Kim to discuss his work, his disappointment at the postponement of the Games and his hopes for Tokyo when it arrives.

What made you return full-time to the NHS…?

I was already working in the hospital, so it’s not like I was just at home and being called up. I didn’t really have to think about it with the Paralympics now off. It was the obvious thing to do. As doctors, nurses, physios, this is why you get into healthcare. I think it’s our duty to step up and do our best to help everybody and ease pressure on all of our colleagues. There is a genuine sense of camaraderie within the health service, and we know that we all need to step up and help each other. Ultimately, it was a simple decision and I’m pleased I can help and make a small difference.

How have the para table tennis team reacted to the postponement…?

I’ve spoken to a few of the team and obviously it’s a bit fresh and difficult right now. You plan your life around something so to have it taken away from you so suddenly is very tough. But overall, I think people are taking it in their stride. Obviously, we’ve got Mr Bayley who will probably be a little relieved that he’s got time to rehab his knee, which is good news. The squad know it’s the right decision, but it’s still mentally tough to deal with because we’ve trained for this for so long.

I’m in a unique position because I’m still lucky enough to be able to do something that feels very meaningful. I think for the other guys who are at home, they feel that sense of helplessness which is very difficult. The Paralympics is our time to shine and our moment on the world stage. It felt as though the media was just starting to ramp up and it was getting very exciting so to have that suddenly stop isn’t easy.

A message to your fellow athletes…

Just stay strong, stay vigilant and make sure you isolate and look after yourselves. On the front line, it is bad and I think people need to understand how bad it is and that it is going to get worse before it gets better. Sport seems a little bit of a moot point right now, but I think it’s important for the athletes to remember that it’s not and sport is a big deal. I think the only thing we can do is see it as a brilliant opportunity for Olympians and Paralympians to show how strong we are in any way we can and then coming back even stronger next year to put on an amazing show for the world.

It’s obviously terrible but also a huge opportunity for next year when people will really need some sport and entertainment and it will be up to us athletes to put on an amazing show. I think the delay has the potential to produce something special in Tokyo and I hope that happens. In the meantime, I hope everybody just keeps their heads down, stays healthy and we’ll get through it together.

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For Vicky Wright, Tokyo was never the aim, but 2020 was always a big year. The two-time Scottish curling champion should have been competing at the World Championships in Canada last week, but was donning the blue jersey of the NHS instead.

Like Kim, Vicky has combined her pursuit for Olympic gold alongside her work as a general surgical ward nurse at Forth Valley Royal Hospital near Falkirk.

The 26-year-old was meant to be spending this year preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, but that dream is now on hold as Vicky voluntarily re-joined the NHS frontline.

Vicky spoke to British Curling about her return to hospital life.

“Once I was home, I contacted my supervisor and said I was back and available to help. For now, I am picking up an extra two to four shifts per week for the foreseeable,” she explained.

“There is an amazing team spirit on my ward and as public transport is not an option now, we are all helping each other out with lifts and childcare etc. so there is a great team spirit and positive approach from everyone and we are taking this all in our stride and we will all pull together.

“We are fully informed and prepared so we are ready, and it is nice to know that my curling teammates are so proud of me and want to help me as well in any way they can.”

“I am very fortunate that I am getting all the support I can get from the British Curling programme and (strength and conditioning coach) Harry Booker has developed a programme for me around my shifts so I have a routine.

“I love my job and I love my curling so having that balance and flexibility is the best-case scenario for me. It is why I do it and why I need it and I am just so grateful that both parties see the benefits.”

Click here to read the full article with Vicky.


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