Part 1: Islander to Athlete

Kerry MacPhee | Tuesday 27th October, 2015

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Part 1- Iím an islander- born and bred on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides and I come with all the bells and whistles- Gaidhlig speaking, bagpipe playing, large family, raised on a croftÖ.any more Scottish tags you can add?? There is no 1 thing that jumps out at me to suggest that I would become an athlete when I was younger, more a series of small things and environmental factors. My Dad likes to yarn about the fact that growing up, he would never get a sheep dog as he had 5 robust kids to do the herding for him and I have countless memories of being dragged out of bed early to go and help move the sheep from one field to the other. This would sometimes entail gathering them in from the hillside, and to make matters worse, we were nearly always running with wellies on- no wonder I have a big engine, have you ever tried running on a hill, off camber, in thick heather wearing a pair of your dadís yellow fisherman wellies?! I look back fondly now and actually do believe that my active, outdoor upbringing had a lot to do with my quick transition to elite athlete. We didnít watch a lot of TV and we played outside a lot. This did include cycling too however it consisted more of building ramps or daring each other to cycle over the cattle grid on the youngest brothers tricycle (if you got up to a high enough speed the wheels didnít get stuck in the cattlegrid- haha!). It was also pretty standard for us to do my grannyís shopping for her (I typed in Ďat the local supermarketí right there but went back to delete as there is no such thing as a supermarket on an island!!!) so we became very adept at riding home with a plastic co-op carrier bag dangling off each handlebar! I am also a twin and competitiveness is a given Iíd say if you come as a pair! Everything was a race to us- getting to the back door 1st after being dropped off by the bus, getting out of school uniform first, getting to Grannyís house first (she was on the same croft, over the fence), everything was done in fast forward. I had an uncle who was also an influence on us growing up too as he used to cycle to Oban from Glasgow to catch the ferry to Uist, and he would do what we thought at the time were mental rides. He would always have the tour de France on and even with countless explanations from him, it took years before I understood why they donít all race for the line and why they let their team mate take all the glory. My uncle got my twin sister Jennifer and I our first cool mountain bikes. They were fluorescent pink mountain bikes and we loved them. However my uncle was terrible for taking the p**s out of us! We really were very innocent, gullible, polite kids that we never realised he was taking the mick. He got us horrific fluorescent helmets to go with the bikes called stack hats and we were so polite we just pretended to be so grateful and thankful despite him getting a good chuckle out of hoe ridiculous we looked! As a rural islander though, I didnít have the same sporting opportunities as many mainlanders do and although I excelled in PE, had every record going and ran competitively with North Uist Athletics Club, I always believed that I was only good compared to other islanders and would never stand up against a mainlander. Another reason why this thought prevailed was that despite great coaches and teachers, it would be fair to say that there is a lack of sporting role models in the islands, particularly (as with many sports) a lack of female role models. I didnít know a single person who had gone on to succeed in sport and it just wasnít the done thing. My 1st role model was sporty spice, then I realised she wasnít a real athlete! After this it became lightning from Gladiators. Eventually I settled on Kelly Holmes after watching her emphatic double gold at the Athens Olympics. Therefore, how on earth could I break the islander mould with role models who seemed a whole lifetime away from my rural upbringing?! My Mum and Dad were also more interested in me becoming a champion piper than a champion athlete so this too wasnít conducive to pursuing the secret dreams I harboured of becoming the next Kelly Holmes. I should add, Mum and Dad have come round now however even a matter of months before the Commonwealth Games, my Dad would phone me and say ďWhy donít you get a real job like the army or the police, that way you can retire early and enjoy your hobby thenĒ haha!! ITíS NOT A HOBBY!!!! I will continue with part 2 as a new blog, otherwise you may need to print and bind this as it is getting on a bit :-) 

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