Lily Rice has already broken down barriers by backflipping her way into the history books, and now she is preparing to dive into her maiden Commonwealth Games.
The Wheelchair Motor Cross World Champion, who became the first female in Europe to land a backflip in a wheelchair, has been starring on the ramps in recent years. The 18-year-old from Pembrokeshire swam in her early years, but only returned to competitive swimming seven months ago.
The S8 swimmer, who lives with a condition called hereditary spastic paraplegia will swim 100m backstroke after notching up a qualifying time of 1:22.32, and she is relishing her latest challenge.
“It’s really exciting, especially as I haven’t been swimming competitively for that long since coming back. To have an opportunity like this is amazing,” she said. “I swam when I was younger at some of the British junior international meets but I took a big break with the WCMX and came back into it in October last year. I was on a Disability Sport Wales hub day and I said I wanted to get back into swimming, and I got back into the Swim Wales system that way.
“The Olympics and Paralympics last summer really inspired me to get back into it. When I saw the people I had competed against previously swimming at that level, it made me want to get back into “it even more.”
Rice is passionate about inspiring other wheelchair users to exercise for their physical and mental wellbeing. And she hopes her performances in Birmingham can continue to encourage wheelchair users to stay active.
“Swimming is completely different to WCMX and that’s why I like it,” she said. “You can compare tumble turns top flips and dives to dropping in on a ramp but it’s so different which is nice.
“I’m really passionate about inspiring other wheelchair users, with the WCMX, I did a lot of coaching and work to raise the awareness of the sport. All sport in general can be good, but disability sport is so important because there is a lot of negativity surrounding disabilities. Getting kids into a sport can be really good for mental health.
“Swimming is so good for your fitness and mental wellbeing, it’s not like any other disability sport.”
Rice, who has rapidly improved upon her return to the pool, is pushing herself to see just how far she can go at her first Commonwealth Games. And the Manorbier swimmer is hoping to be the surprise package at the Games this summer.
“It’s definitely exciting to push myself and see what I can do at the Games. I’d love to go sub-1:20:00, but I’m working hard in training and we’ll see if that pays off,” she added.
“The World Championships are coming up and it’ll be really interesting to watch and see what people do there. It’s exciting to be selected for such a big event.”