When 19-year-old Ellen Buttrick was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a juvenile macular degeneration in her eyes that means she has central vision loss and can only see peripherally, there was no feeling of pity for herself.
The first thought that entered the head of the Leeds teenager was how can I turn that into a positive?
“I saw it as an opportunity rather than getting stuck on the negative,” Buttrick, now 26, told the YEAH.
“It was a challenge, but when I heard about it right away I was like, ‘Okay, I can row at the Paralympics’, so I’ve been fixated on this for so long.”
She would have been forgiven for wondering “why me?” “. Stargardt’s disease is a genetic disease and yet no one in her family has had it before. Also, it develops in people up to the age of 19. Buttrick was 19 when she got him.
“I was almost out of the way,” she laughs regretfully, as if talking about missing the # 10 bus and having to wait 30 minutes for the next one, not a visual impairment that will stick with her. all his life.
The state of mind is typical of this impressive young woman, who last month won a gold medal at the Paralympic Games as part of Britain’s PR3 mixed four-row boat in Tokyo.
This achievement was the fulfillment of the promise she made when diagnosed that she would be going to the Paralympic Games.
Buttrick had only rowed two years when his life changed forever.
She started the sport as part of the Leeds Rowing Club’s Learn to Row program on Lake Waterloo in Roundhay Park.
“I started rowing really well at club level and I think my coaches could see that I had potential,” she recalls, noting the role Dave Cottrell of Leeds Rowing Club played in making it. to start up.
“I have the physical qualities to be a good rower because of my arm length and height, and my ability to work hard and push myself.
“I wasn’t very keen on the sport at the time, I just liked being part of teams and clubs. I discovered rowing and it’s something that I really got better at and I finally thought “this is something I could be good at”.
Despite her initial determination to make the Paralympic team, she had to wait a few months to get back on the water. She was at Northumbria University which didn’t satisfy her thirst for rowing, so she had to wait until she returned to her hometown.
“When I came back to Leeds Rowing Club, I told them about my ambition,” she recalls. “They had never had an elite international athlete before so it was very exciting for them to have someone representing the Leeds Rowing Club on an international stage.”
Which she did with distinction. Buttrick was spotted on a talent identification day in 2017, joined the British rowing team in Berkshire in 2018, won the world title the following year and European and Paralympic gold medals this summer.
“I was very lucky to be in the coxed mixed four, it’s a great legacy. We are fortunate to have come back after achieving what we wanted, ”she says of their triumph in Tokyo.
“When I set myself the goal of competing in the Paralympic Games in 2014, I didn’t mind winning a medal or not, but once I got on this successful boat, the pressure was to win a medal. Golden. “
Buttrick is the type to respond to such challenges. When the lockdown hit during the pandemic last summer, depriving her of the public transportation she uses to get around, she stood firm and did not panic, and once the company reopened, she stepped out into the local community and worked as a volunteer to re-engage with people.
When she first arrived at UK Rowing Headquarters in 2018, she was only overwhelmed by names on the wall like Sir Steve Redgrave for a few moments.
“I couldn’t believe I was there walking the hallways they had walked through. But it just makes you believe in the system, you know you can trust it.
She is already targeting Paris 2024 and will soon resume training. “It’s weird to be a normal person again,” she laughs.
“I can’t wait to get back to training. To keep my place, I have to make sure I’m fast enough.
“It’s not about winning for me, it’s about being the best you can be.”
Next up is an appearance in Team Yorkshire – The Homecoming next Sunday night at Leeds’ First Direct Arena, when she joins the other Yorkshire heroes in Tokyo.
To claim free tickets visit https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/1F005B35DE009764?did=aleeds