Work Life: Stefanie Reid, Paralympic athlete

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Stefanie Reid, 27, is a track and field Paralympic athlete. She splits her time between living in London and Texas, USA, with her husband, wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos

On the morning of competition, my body clock wakes me up between 7am and 8am. I’m staying in a townhouse in the athletes’ village with six others, but I have my own small single room. I shower and get dressed in my Paralympics GB casual kit. My events at this year’s Paralympics are 100m, 200m and the long jump.

I’ve always loved sport so I was devastated when my right foot was amputated following a boating accident in 2000. I was lucky to be alive but I was so heartbroken that I became really bitter, stopped eating and refused to see my family. That was until the day a nurse slammed my dinner tray down and told me that a 12-year-old girl on another ward had both feet amputated, yet still managed to smile. It turned out the other girl didn’t exist but the nurse had recognised my competitive streak and made me realise that I didn’t have to stop being me.

I take my supplements – fish oil for metabolism and beta-alanine for strength and power – then head to the athletes’ canteen to make a breakfast shake. It’s a blend of banana, strawberry protein powder, peanut butter, spinach and low fat milk. It tastes amazing. I also meet up with my husband for coffee; it’s great being married to another athlete but also incredibly difficult. We have to be selfish and focus on ourselves, but when he’s competing, I feel like I am too. I’m so emotionally involved in what he’s doing that if he has a bad race, I want to be supportive but I have to concentrate on my own event.

If I have a heat in the evening, I try to make my day as normal as possible. I do 45 minutes of yoga and stretching in my room to wake up my body, then do something mentally engaging. Following my accident, I threw myself into study and gained a full academic scholarship to study biochemistry. I’m now doing a masters in nutrition but I’ve put it on hold to focus on the Games, so I spend time planning our bathroom renovations or playing cards.

Lunch at 1pm is a meal of carbohydrates, vegetables and high quality protein. At 2pm, I get my gear ready for the race. I have two blade legs so that I always have a spare. They’re worth £12,000 each and I spend an additional £2,000 per year on liners that are used to screw them on with a vacuum seal. I also have walking, high heel and water legs. I’m fortunate to be sponsored by ProActive Prosthetics, as it’s hard to compete without sponsorship

When I get to the track at 4.30pm, I find a quiet corner to have a quick nap. I start warming up at 5pm and I listen to Express Yourself by Madonna on my iPod while I do drills, stretches and high-speed runs.

Walking out into the Olympic Stadium for my heat is an awesome feeling; you’re in front of 50,000 people, all willing you to do your best. I’m proud to be competing for ParalympicsGB; my situation is unusual as I was born in New Zealand to British parents who then emigrated to Toronto, so I represented Canada at the Beijing Games. I won bronze and was approached to switch to ParalympicsGB. It took eight months to decide to change allegiances as I wanted to make sure I could compete with sincerity and pride.

After I cross the finish line, I face a massive media tunnel, where I’m free to do as many interviews as I choose. I meet my coach and physio to cool down and do soft tissue work, as it’s important to take care of my body if I’m racing again the next day.

When I arrive back at the village at 9.30pm I have another meal similar to lunch – I don’t like feeling really full, so my portioning trick is to have meat the size of my palm, carbohydrates the size of my fist and as many vegetables as I want. It can be hard to wind down; it’s so exciting to be part of the Paralympics that I’m often so wired I can’t get to sleep until 2am.

Tickets for the Paralympic Games are available to buy daily until 9 September;

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