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The active life: Stefanie Reid - Artsci'06

The active life: Stefanie Reid - Artsci'06

Two-time Paralympic medallist
Five-time world record-holder, long jump

[photo of Stefanie Reid, Artsci'06]
Photo by Cody Burridge

Stefanie Reid, Artsci'06

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
~ Albert Einstein

Whenever Paralympic long jumper Stefanie Reid (Artsci’06) does any public speaking, she always has one unlikely goal: to have people to forget about her. Her reasoning? So they can focus on themselves, instead.

“I always want people to leave feeling inspired to follow their own dreams,” she says warmly. “Everyone has their challenges: the only difference is that mine are really out there and obvious.”

Her “obvious” challenge, of course, was losing her right foot in a boating accident as a teenager. Rather than dampening her drive or ambition, however, what first seemed like a setback has enabled Ms. Reid to achieve things she never would have imagined. A five-time world record holder, Reid won medals at both the 2008 and the 2012 Paralympic games, first in the 200m sprint and then in long jump. She is currently the reigning European long jump champion.

But until she arrived at Queen’s as an undergraduate on a full scholarship in 2002, she wasn’t even entirely convinced she could run at all. While she had always excelled at sport, particularly rugby, and dreamed of a career as a professional athlete, her accident had proven to be a major setback. Three weeks into her first year, however, she found herself watching a track and field practice and wondered how she might stack up against those who were running. 

[Stefanie Reid photo on top of old car]
Stafanie Reid (Photo by Tom Shaw)

“I had always been fast on the rugby field,” she recalls. “I thought to myself, you are going to regret this if you don’t try.” Equipped with a new sport prosthesis, she then put in a call to coach Wayne Bulak (Arts/PHE’67), who told her that if she was committed and willing to try hard, she could train with the team.

Reid admits that her first weeks on the track were humbling. “I was used to being the best on the field,” she laughs, “and suddenly I was right at the bottom of the barrel.” But with encouragement from her peers and her coaches, she made steady progress, and by her fourth year, was able to travel with the team and register “decent results” against able-bodied runners. Not long before graduation, Reid says she began “dabbling” in long jump and was eventually invited to an international event in the U.K. “I went to that event and realized I could have a future in this.”

While Reid, who is married to Canadian wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos, competed for Canada at the 2008 Paralympic games, she relocated to London, U.K. in 2010 to pursue specialized training opportunities. Reid, who holds a British passport (her parents are British and Scottish, respectively), then made the difficult to decision (“I had to think about it for a year!”) to don the Union Jack for the London’s Paralympic games in 2012. “Nothing can compare with competing at a home Olympics,” she says. “I really wanted to know what that was like.”

It was a gamble that paid off. Reid recalls looking up at the crowd of 80,000 cheering her on at the games, thinking that almost 12 years earlier, immediately after her accident, she had been sitting in a hospital bed wondering if she would ever walk again.

Reid, who has since done modeling work for Debenhams, one of the U.K’s largest retailers, taken on an internship in sports journalism with BBC Radio, and who still does her fair share of public speaking, has her sights firmly set on earning another medal at the 2016 Paralympic games. But no matter where her path takes her next, she says she will remain eternally grateful for her Queen’s education.

"It’s probably been the biggest asset in my sporting career,” she says. “It taught me how to problem-solve and make smart choices. And this is where it all started!"


[cover of Queen's Alumni Review 2015 Issue 3]