Beth Moulam said she is “living my dream” as she prepares to make her Paralympic bow 21 years after being inspired by the Sydney Games.
Moulam, from York, has cerebral palsy and will compete for Great Britain in the boccia pairs competition at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre from Thursday 2 September.
The 27-year-old will do so just days after graduating from the University of York – which she did from her room in Tokyo – with a degree in social policy.
“I was six when I first watched the Sydney Paralympics in 2000,” Moulam told the PA news agency.
“I was captivated by watching the cerebral palsy sprinters, and then when I heard Caroline Baird (nee Innes) interviewed I knew I wanted to be on that world stage.
“Caroline has cerebral palsy too and a speech impairment, it made me realise that if she could achieve in life, so could I.”
Moulam was unsure which sport she would pick, but at the age of 10 got the chance to take part in the Surrey Youth Games.
Despite never having heard of boccia, she was hooked after just two short training sessions – but it took some motherly initiative to keep the journey going.
“I hadn’t realised just how fiercely competitive I was until then,” she said.
“I wanted to continue to play… there were no local clubs, so my friend’s mum and mine set up a club for us – ‘Boccia Epsom and Ewell.’
“From there there was no turning back for me. Boccia became an all-consuming passion.”
That passion had to fit around two things however – a university education, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Moulam uses a power chair while out and about and an electronic speech device for most of her communication, while she wears hearing aids and lip reads due to a hearing impairment.
“In the first year of my degree I was working 50-60 hours a week just to get the work completed and didn’t have time for anything else,” she said.
“The university supported me extending the rest of the four-year degree over a further six years, so it has taken seven years in total.
“This means I’ve still studied full time but got 100 per cent extra time to allow me to get the work done. As a result I got a better balance in my life, and got to play my sport, so I didn’t just have my head in a book.”
Moulam had planned to take a year out in 2020 to concentrate on boccia, but the pandemic-delayed Games meant she could focus on her degree, completing it in January 2021.
Since then she has been able to focus on boccia, but the pandemic forced her – like many athletes – to adapt.
“During 2020 training was mainly in (the) kitchen, which was not ideal as a court is 12.5m by 6m and my kitchen is nowhere near that big,” she said.
Having navigated a degree as well as the pandemic, Moulam is ready for her Olympic bow, which will see her compete alongside Jamie and Scott McCowan in the BC3 pairs.
“I’m immersed in living my dream,” she said. “After years of training and competing nationally I can’t wait for this next step to happen.
“I don’t really have an expectation of quite what it will be like, even my experienced team-mates can’t really tell me as we’ve never had a Games like this before.
“My dream really would come true if we won a pairs medal.”