At the SMS Foundation UK, we take immense pride in celebrating individuals who are dedicated to pursuing their aspirations. Ellen Wotherspoon, a 28-year-old from Scotland, has become a shining example of determination, resilience, and outstanding performance within the Scottish Learning Disability Sports (SLDS) community.
Ellen’s journey into the world of sports began in 2010 when she joined the Forth Valley Flyers, an athletics club specifically tailored for individuals with learning disabilities. Ellen’s commitment to her club is evident, attending weekly for over 13 years. Warm-up laps around the track and training sessions are all part of her routine. At 28 years old, her regular participation has not only improved her athletic skills but also enriched her overall health and well-being. The routine, camaraderie, and social aspects of training are all sources of immense joy for Ellen. She cherishes the opportunity to meet her friends, and her coach, and often shares a picnic with them.
One of Ellen’s most recent achievements is her remarkable improvement in the 50-meter sprint, where she managed to take 10 seconds off her personal best. Her dedication and hard work have been rewarded with tangible results, and at a recent competition, she celebrated with four gold medals!
Ellen’s sporting achievements are not only limited to her personal best sprints. The world of sports, particularly within the realm of learning disabilities, adapts to ensure that every participant can compete on a level playing field. For instance, when Ellen competes in running, the distance is tailored to 50m instead of the usual 100m. Additionally, a dedicated supporter accompanies her at the start of the race, tapping her on the shoulder to signal the beginning, as many participants, including Ellen, cannot hear the starter pistol.
Another event where Ellen has performed well is the ‘softball toss,’ an accessible version of the shotput with a lighter 4kg ball. Ellen’s commitment to improving her technique in throwing has led to a string of achievements that reflect her dedication and perseverance.
Ellen has also ventured into other sporting events, including the ‘standing long jump,’ an adapted version that omits the run-up to the board. In this event, participants jump into the sand from the board. Ellen has also tried her hand at throwing the foam javelin, a more accessible version of the sport.
One of Ellen’s most memorable moments was her participation in the 2017 Special Olympics held in Sheffield. Back then, Scotland was part of the Special Olympics. However, the landscape of competitive sports for individuals with learning disabilities has since evolved, giving birth to the Scottish Learning Disability Sports (SLDS), where Ellen’s beloved club, the Forth Valley Flyers, now competes.
Ellen continues to attend her club every Friday, thriving on the consistent routine and social interactions it provides. Her efforts are now focused on running, softball toss, and javelin. Sadly Ellen has had to withdraw from the standing long jump due to her cortical visual impairment (CVI) which makes it difficult for her to see the edge of the sandpit.
As Ellen continues her journey on the track and in the field, she teaches us all a valuable lesson – that with the right mindset and support, there are no limits to what can be achieved. The SMS Foundation salutes Ellen for her extraordinary achievements and looks forward to witnessing her continued success in the world of sports. Ellen Wotherspoon, you are an inspiration to us all!