“Pressure for me comes from competing against myself. I’m not satisfied yet. I think, right, I’ve accomplished that challenge…what’s the next challenge going to be? There are days when I want to give up, but I believe I have a very high pain tolerance from years of surgeries. That tolerance and mental strength helps me push through the hours of pain, sacrifice and hard work and to face up to the pressure I put on myself.”
Sophie Pascoe is now New Zealand’s most awarded Paralympian after recent achievements at the 2016 Paralympics where she won 5 medals, three gold and two silver.
Sophie was born on 8 January 1993 and grew up in Christchurch. After a life-threatening accident as a 2 year old, Sophie lost her left leg, having to be amputated below the knee. But Sophie never let her disability hold her back. Sophie’s mum enrolled her in swimming lessons, not being a natural swimmer as she was in other sports. In 2000 Sophie had her first win at her school’s annual swimming sports competition. This was when Sophie realised that her talent in the pool could be bigger than her disability.
From then, Sophie’s swimming career blossomed. A very determined individual, Sophie doesn't look back and think 'what if' the accident never happened. For her, it's all about the present, and this drives her to train every day with no excuses. The power of her 'why' ensures that she never misses a training session and leaves everything she has in the pool.
At the young age of 15, Sophie attended her first Paralympics in Beijing in 2008. This was meant to be an exercise for experience but Sophie surpassed everyone’s expectation claiming three golds and one silver.
At the London Paralympics in 2012 Sophie performed under great pressure built up from her unexpected success in Beijing. Overcoming this pressure, Sophie earned herself three gold medals, three silver medals and two new world records in the women's 200m medley and 100m Butterfly.
And at the 2016 Rio Paralympics Sophie earned three gold medals and two silvers along with the honour of becoming New Zealand's most awarded Paralympian.
Training relentlessly, without missing a single session, is key to Sophie's success. But so is her mental game that allows her to work through the intense pain she experiences in her right leg, as she pushes the small amount of muscle left to its absolute maximum. For Sophie, swimming has given her something beyond the thrill of the win, or the pride that comes with representing her country. It has enabled her to define who she is outside of her disability, rather than be defined by it. "Yes, I'm different because I'm disabled. But I'm also different because I'm a world champion. Not many people can say that." - Sophie Pascoe
2017 has been a year of recognition for Sophie, awarded the Sport New Zealand Leadership Award at the Halbergs, and nominated for a prestigious Laureus Award. Acknowledgement of her efforts in the pool, and her positive influence on how we view Para-Olympic sport in New Zealand. Sophie is an inspiration to thousands of Kiwis, both disabled and able-bodied, and in the words of Peter Miskimmin, one of our greatest champions ever.