Lora Turnham is a woman that never ceases to amaze. She is someone that continues to inspire every person she meets.
Partially sighted at an early age and having to overcome all the difficulties that an hereditary eye condition brings, Lora has bounced back to achieve great successes both personally and in the sporting arena and with the help of her guide dog hopes to continue achieving her dreams.
In 2010, Lora graduated with a degree in Physiotherapy from the University of Birmingham and hopes that will help her fulfil her long term ambition to become a paediatric physiotherapist.
She was always a keen lover of sport and competed in Track and Cross-Country Athletics events at junior level before turning to cycling.
One of Lora’s career highlights is the silver medal that she won in the Pursuit at the 2011 World Championships. In another remarkable feat, she competed in the London 2012 games, finishing in a credible 7th place in her tandem event. That was despite undergoing technical issues. She is now targeting Rio 2016.
However, she is the first to admit that without the support of her lovely guide dog, Libby, she wouldn’t have had the independence to realise her ambitions and achieve the success that she has had so far.
“Libby is very much my dog. When the Guide Dogs trainer came to the house with Libby in the van to meet me we got on straight away,” said Lora. “She started licking me and wagging her tail and from that point on its like she decided she was my dog. Within 5 minutes of our first training walk we worked so well together - she was my dog from then on.
“We’re very well matched. She’s got a lot of personality and she likes to be active and working because she’s so intelligent. She’s not a robotic dog that just guides me around, she makes my life entertaining, and she’s my friend. She loves being my centre of attention.
“She’s my independence and I feel vulnerable when she’s not there. I just don’t feel like me, because part of me is Libby. She does so much for me and we are a partnership.”
All these athletes proved that they have been able to succeed against great difficulty and that many of them have been helped by their guides. Some of these guides are human, others are animal. All have been instrumental in ensuring that these people who were sometimes written off as not having any chance can achieve great things and inspire everyone, not just disabled people to work for their life goals.
Maybe we can al learn to accept help and support form people or animals who are there for us and can help us fulfil our ambitions.
The bigger picture
Lora is just one of the many special individuals that inspire at all levels.
Here are just a few more examples of paralympians who have had support and refused to allow their disability to affect their aspirations;
Kelly Gallagher is another successful Paralympian from Northern Ireland. She suffers from congenital oculocutaneous albinism, a disorder which involves a lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes and which also causes vision problems like blurring.
In a remarkable feat, Kelly won Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic gold during the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. She finished first in the visually impaired Super-G competition. She fell during both the super-combined and the giant slalom. Kelly was aided by Charlotte Evans.
She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to sport for people with a visual impairment.
(Kelly Gallagher celebrating her well deserved gold medal with aid, Charlotte Evans)
David Clarke is an International Blind Footballer having represented Great Britain and England's blind football team on 131 occasions scoring a total of an unbelievable 124 goals. He is a three times European Championships "Golden Boot" winner. Most recently David represented Great Britain and England at the 2008 Paralympic Games, London 2012 as well as the World Blind Football Championships in 2010. Well respected throughout the world as a star striker, he is easily the top scorer for England in all competitions and is considered a great role model for the sport. David suffers from congenital glaucoma which deteriorated his eyesight. His guide dog, Ned helps to support his independence. He is another massive inspiration.
(Dave Clarke in action for England at the 2010 World Blind Football Championships )
Anne Dunham, MBE, is a British Para-equestrian who has competed in the Paralympic Games. Anne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 27 and has used a wheelchair since the age of 30.
What she has achieved has been nothing short of brilliant. Anne has competed at the Paralympics on an incredible five occasions, participating in the 1996 games in Atlanta, the 2000 summer Paralympics in Sydney, Athens in 2004, Beijing 2008 and finally London 2012.
Having grown up being a fond lover of horses, Anne participated in dressage events, picking up five gold medals and one silver and bronze medal apiece to total a magnificent career.
For her wonderful efforts, she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.
(Anne Dunham celebrating paralympic success)
Elizabeth "Libby’ Clegg is a professional disability runner for Scotland and Great Britain. She represented Great Britain in the T12 100 m and 200 m at the 2008 Summer Paralympicswinning a silver medal in the T12 100 m race.
Libby has a deteriorating eye condition known as Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy disease giving her only slight peripheral vision in her left eye – she is registered blind. Despite her disability she has achieved unprecedented success. In January 2011, she competed in the IPC World Athletic Championships. Whilst there she took a bronze in the 200m. Libby is a Paralympic silver medallist and current World Champion in the T12 100m and 200m sprints. Despite this she has achieved an amazing amount for such a young athlete and was one of the major success stories from the recent IPC World Championships in New Zealand and IBSA World Championships in Turkey.
In June 2012, Libby won the 100m and 200m at the IPC Athletics European Championships whilst also winning silver at the London Paralympics on 2 September 2012 in the T12 100m. Libby and guide Mikhail Huggins broke the European record in the final.
(Libby Clegg in action with her guide alongside her)
Jessica Jane Applegate
Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE is a British Paralympic swimmer with Aspergers Syndrome. She competes in the S14 classification for swimmers with intellectual disabilities, mainly freestyle and backstroke. She qualified for the 2012 Summer Paralympics and on 2 September in the S14 200m freestyle, Jessica-Jane won the gold setting a Paralympic record. The games in which she competed in were the first with an ‘Intellectual Disability’ since the Sydney Paralympics in 2000. She now aims to compete in able-bodied competitions.
(Jessica Jane Applegate celebrating success)
Hannah Lucy Cockroft MBE is a British wheelchair athlete specialising in sprint distances in the T34 classification. She holds the Paralympic and world records for both the 100 metres T34 and 200 metres T34. Competing for Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, she won two gold medals.
She suffered two cardiac arrests at birth that damaged two different parts of her brain. She was left with a disability that affected her balance and mobility, problems with her fine motor skills, weak hips and deformed feet and legs. Her parents were told that she would never be able to walk, talk, do anything for herself or live past her teenage years.
Despite all this, she managed to overcome every difficulty and every challenge that her disability provided to achieve stunning success, winning two gold Paralympic medals, four IPC World Championship gold medals as well as gold medal successes at junior level.
(Hannah Cockroft achieving Paralympic success in 2012)