Ballykelly Paralympian Sally Brown is the first to admit the last two years haven’t been the kindest to her.
Plagued by foot injuries over two consecutive years, Sally lost vital Lottery funding.
It has meant doing what’s necessary, including taking a part-time job at Sainsbury’s, which sponsors the Paralympics, to fund her training.
The two years since the move from Northern Ireland to Loughborough haven’t exactly panned out the way she expected, and the 20-year-old is the first to say she has struggled to return to form.
While it has been frustrating, to say the least, the Ballykelly woman said the challenges - including having her appendix removed - have strengthened her resolve to get back on track.
“It has been quite an unlucky few years,” says Sally.
Sally made the brave decision to change coaches 12 weeks ago and, already, she is realising the benefits. She says she is ready for the new season.
“I’ve been with my new coach for the last 12 weeks, and already I’ve seen a lot of changes. He has really cleaned up my running, and I’m going into winter training feeling positive,” Sally told the ‘Journal’.
“What I do is selfish, and I have to do what is right for me. In the past few years I would have worried about upsetting people, but now I know what I have to do. I’m feeling more positive and looking forward to the season ahead,” she says.
After a short break back in Ballykelly, Sally says leaving home and family - mum and day Mary and Richard and younger sister Marcie - is hard.
“Here (Loughborough) is home too and I know it’s the best for my running, but I do miss my family. I miss the countryside at home too.
“I’m in a city here in Loughborough and the nearest beach is three to four hours away.
“At home I can be at Benone in 15 minutes, but I know being here is better for my running.”
To regain full Lottery funding Sally has to get back to full recovery, and she says boyfriend Jonnie Peacock - the T44 100m London Paralympic gold medal winner - is a great support for her.
“I’m confident it’s not going to be a problem, it’s just getting past the injuries,” says Sally who works 12 hours a week over three days in Sainsbury’s.
“I needed the money so I got in touch with Sainsbury’s and they’ve been brilliant. They’ve been really understanding,” says Sally, who trains six days a week for two to four hours a day.
“I don’t know what else I would do other than run. I know once I get past the injuries it will go well and I can make my dream come true. I didn’t compete this year and I didn’t compete much last year,” says Sally.
“There are so many people who have been championing me and supporting me and I love making them proud and achieving something with my life.
“Running gives me that feeling of freedom, and the fact I can do this as a career is a bonus.”
Sally is well aware she faces a tough year ahead to make it to Rio in 2016, but she is determined to make that happen.
“This last year is going to be scary, but the last couple of years have made me stronger.It will depend on my winter training but, realistically, it should all go well and I’ll be on the plane to Rio.”
Sally added: “The talent is there. I just have to do it.”