Stef Reid finally trades up from silver
From “the chubby girl with one foot” to the champion of the world – it took Stef Reid 11 years to complete the journey, but she finally did it. So often over the course of her career Reid has stood on the podium looking up at the champion beside her. It happened on so many occasions that she admitted questioning whether she was destined to be “the silver girl” forever.
The doubts can finally be banished. Having won three Paralympic and two world medals over a decade, Reid is now the one holding gold.
Yesterday’s T44 long jump victory at the World Para Athletics Championships in London was thoroughly dominant.
In jumping a winning distance of 5.40 metres, Reid was some way off her best, but it was good enough anyway. With France’s Paralympic champion Marie-Amelie Le Fur not competing, Reid knew she truly had only one rival for gold in the form of Dutchwoman Marlene van Gansewinkel.
That Van Gansewinkel surpassed 5.10m only twice, compared to Reid on all six of her efforts, spoke volumes. The British veteran was without doubt the best in the world.
“It feels amazing,” said the 32-yearold. “I was just reflecting – I did my first World Championships in 2006 and this is the first time I have stood on top of the podium. There’s that part of your brain where you think: ‘Gosh, I don’t want to be the silver girl forever.’ And you have all sorts of questions that go through your head.
“There’s no point in ignoring them. You just have to address them. The reality is there’s a lot of athletes out there and not everyone gets the gold.
“It’s been a long journey and it’s really satisfying at the end of it all. I gave up a lot to do this. I made a decision in 2006 to pursue this over medical school, which a lot of people were saying was nuts: ‘How is a one-footed sprinter possibly going to make it?’
“But I’m so thankful I did because I can’t imagine missing out on this and watching from my sofa.”
Born in New Zealand to British parents, Reid moved to Toronto, Canada, aged four and almost lost her life 12 years later when her leg was shredded by the propellers of a powerboat after she had fallen into the waters of a lake near her home.
So strong was the blood loss that doctors did not know whether they would be able to save her but, after amputating below her right knee, she learned how to walk again and soon began her international sports career – initially representing Canada before switching allegiance to Britain in 2010.
Now based in Loughborough alongside her seven-time world champion husband Brent Lakatos, of Canada, Reid credits moving to coach Aston Moore’s group in 2015 with laying the foundations for the end of her gold medal wait.
“I remember when I first started para-sport and I stood on the track and, let’s be honest, nobody wanted to coach the chubby girl with one foot,” she said. “It took a while to get someone on board. In 2015, I was in a situation where I no longer had a coach and not everyone is super excited to pick up a 31-year-old athlete.
“But Aston just got it all. It was his first dive into para-sport and he has absolutely loved it. It has always been my ambition that when somebody watches me jump, they say, ‘Wow, she’s an amazing jumper’, not just ‘She’s amazing for an amputee’.
“I feel that with Aston I am getting there. He’s the kind of coach I wish I met when I was 16.”
Not that Reid is quite done with her competitive career yet. She will resume commentary duties for Channel 4 today, with Lakatos due to start his campaign in the T53 200m.
Then there is the question of the Tokyo Paralympics in three years’ time – a target she is intent on making.
“I’d be really disappointed to not do Tokyo,” she said. “I’ve had such a good time with Aston over the last two years and he still has a lot to teach me. And I’m still having so much fun. I’m not ready to walk away from all of this yet.”
Le Fur should be back in action by then, having taken time out from the sport for personal reasons and Reid would love nothing more than to bow out by taking the Paralympic champion’s crown.
For now, there remains that ‘what if ’ question. Would Reid still have won gold had Le Fur been competing in London yesterday?
Asked if she minded winning gold in Le Fur’s absence, Reid replied: “Yes and no. I do hope she comes back. You always want to compete with the world’s best, because it brings out the best in you. But at the same time I can’t beat an imaginary person.”
There was no such joy for Britain’s Zac Shaw, who was below par in crashing out of the T12 100m semi-finals.
Shaw only narrowly missed out on medals in both the 100m and 200m at the World Championships two years ago and qualified as the winner from his heat on Friday night.
He did not fire yesterday, unfortunately, finishing last in his heat in 11.35 seconds.
“I’m not going to lie, I am pretty devastated,” he said. “I came into these championships wanting a medal. I will refocus on the 200m on Wednesday.”
Long-awaited triumph: Stef Reid celebrates her first world title in London yesterday