This year’s York Sport Award for Sportswoman of the Year was merited to Sarah Parsons for her success in discus.
Nominated by her own coach Paul Wilson, who is also head throws coach for City of York AC, she has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
Alongside her studies at York, Parsons has been training with Wilson for the last four years. She even moved her home club in order to specifically train with him. It was this move, Parsons asserts, to be coached by Wilson, that drove her to train to the very best of her ability in order to become the best discus thrower she could be.
Despite Parsons’ current prowess as a discus thrower her success actually stems from a shot put session at school where it was first suggested that she join an athletics club “after throwing further than anyone else”.
From there she joined Middlesbrough Mandale AC where she gave discus, then hammer, and even a bit of javelin a try. Clearly being gifted, it became obvious that she could compete in all three disciplines – shot put, discus and hammer – for her club.
At this time her sights were firmly set on shot put, admitting that she “always thought shot put was the one for me”, rather than discus.
After being recommended to go to York for continued coaching in throws, Parsons began to establish herself more and more as time went on. In her first year at York she improved her personal best by seven metres and from there she developed into a supreme sporting success. It is no wonder that Parsons took the decision to stay with Wilson. Recommended as the best throws in the area, the following year was more than fruitful for the pair.
A list of titles followed her through to the end of 2013, preceding her time at the University of York, including coming seventh in the England Athletics Under 20 Championships Final as one of many.
While at York and managing both her studies and training she continued her streak of success, becoming the Malta International Gold medallist. This is but one of many sporting accolades she has since achieved.
However, in 2014 Parsons’ season was sadly interrupted by a broken ankle and significantly damaged ligaments. A sports person’s worst nightmare, Parsons found herself unable to train and undergoing an operation to remove part of her ankle and reconstruct the damaged ligaments. Here Parsons’ tenacity and strength of character shines through as she refused to let the crutches she now found herself on hinder her future throwing abilities. Parsons amazingly continued to train in an effort to maintain the progress made in the previous season.
The combination of both her physical and mental strength allowed her to get back to throwing in an impressively short space of time, considering the strain and significance of her injuries. Despite her operation, her technique excelled and her ability to lift weights progressed. Admirably she used the experience to go back to the very fundamentals of her skill and build it to something above and beyond what it was before – to not only recover, but improve.
In Parsons’ own words: “Despite my injury, it made me more motivated to achieve my targets. It was a tough time, not just in athletics, but generally every day.”
To further stress Parsons’ fighting spirit she survived a further injury to her shoulder which later became a back problem. Parsons spoke gracefully about the unfortunate nature of the situation; her lack of anger and annoyance at something beyond her control is highly commendable and highlights one of the many reasons why she won the award. Not only do her sporting attributes shine through in moments of success but also in times of struggle.
She was keen to stress how important the support she received from her coach, boyfriend and squad was in maintaining the belief that 2015 would be her comeback year.
“Just as everything seemed to be going in the right direction I got setback and it was hard to continue training through this. I kept thinking was I ever going to be 100 per cent again.”
However, just as that wasn’t a lingering thought, nor were Parsons’ injuries. 2015 saw her return greater than even she could have ever imagined. By the end of the season, noting both Parsons’ sweet surprise and sheer happiness, she was ranked fourth in the UK.
No one could have predicted Parsons’ roaring return to the throwing scene. To achieve everything in spite of a tumultuous 2014 is more than meritorious and understandably, as she puts it, is “still a bit of a dream”.
It has also, Parsons says, “fuelled [her] motivation” for the continuation of her training for the winter season. Having had the best winter ever, proven by the numerous personal bests that she achieved at the Indoor Shot Competions, Sarah is certainlycarving her niche with style. Both the University and York’s Athletic Club can look forward to further championships and her continued success.