Kelly’s Story: How she became the first visually-impaired athlete to claim a medal at the Invictus Games

At 23, Kelly had the world at her feet and was exactly where she wanted to be; developing her career in the army.

Unfortunately, she fell ill and was diagnosed with a blood condition that meant she was medically discharged. The condition caused strokes that left Kelly with serious and long-term physical, psychological and social impacts on her health, including loss of her sight.

To rebuild her sense of independence and identity, Kelly turned to sport. She began running to raise money for Blind Veterans UK and completed the London Marathon in 2015. In 2017, Kelly, along with her guide and training partner, Mikail, were selected by the UK Armed Forces Team for the Invictus Games in Toronto. There, she took part in indoor rowing and athletics, achieving two personal bests in both the 100m and 200m distances. Kelly wanted to inspire others injured in service to take up sport as part of their recovery and began to blog about her experiences with Invictus and inspired other veterans to apply for the Games.

Setting her sights on Invictus again in 2018, Kelly competed in: indoor rowing, long jump and the 100 and 200 metre races. For the second time, she was the only visually impaired (VI) athlete to compete. Kelly became the heart of the team, giving advice and being the shoulder to lean on when things were getting tough and always showing others that anything is possible when you set your mind to it.

Achieving Personal Best times in the lead up to the games, Kelly demonstrated determination, teamwork and compassion that epitomises what the Invictus spirit is all about. Thanks to Kelly’s commitment during the lead up of the games and her performance during them, herself and Mikail were selected to run the first leg of the women’s 4x100m relay, which was a first for the games to have a VI athlete run in the relay. Kelly helped her team earn a silver medal.

In February 2019, Kelly attended the Endeavour Fund Awards, an evening celebrating the Armed Forces Community who were injured or fell ill in service, but have gone on to use sport and adventurous challenge as part of their recovery and rehabilitation.

At the event, Kelly won the award for Recognising Achievement, which goes to the person who has best utilised their endeavour to promote and catalyse their recovery.

“This means a great deal to me because I not only did this for me, I did this for my little 3-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy, and I wanted to prove to her that anything is possible in life no matter what you go though.” – Kelly Ganfield

Find out more about the 2019 Endeavour Fund Awards

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