In between training and graduating, we managed to get some time to speak with Beth Moulam, who told us all about her time at York and how she got into Boccia, which started her journey to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Why did you choose to study at York and why social policy?
I fell in love with Social Policy in 2012 when I attended a European independent living workshop in Strasbourg and enjoyed learning about disability policy. At the end of the week, the participants got the opportunity to present our findings to MEPs at the Palais de Congress and from that moment I wanted to understand the theory behind our political system.
York was, from the off, welcoming and inclusive about everything from academic support to accommodation and more. I also loved the campus which was flat which would make it easy for me to get around.
What opportunities have York given you that you would not have found elsewhere?
York was only 1 of 2 places that offered an extended degree. Because of my disability, this gave me the flying start I needed as I did not have the entry requirements to go straight onto the degree.
The staff at York have always been extremely supportive. After the initial year, they recognised that I needed extra time to do justice to the work, again due to my disability. We agreed I would still be full-time but complete the work over 6 years instead of the intended 3, for which I am grateful…..and it also gave me time then to train and compete for boccia.
Can you describe your university experience in 3 words?
Hard work, enjoyable, and inclusion.
What do you miss the most about York/campus?
I’m a bit of a foodie and York has many great places to eat. One of my favorites is hot chocolate and cake at Betty’s. I love the history of York and always enjoy a good bump and bone shake along The Shambles.
This isn’t York, but I love the proximity to Scarborough on the North Yorkshire Coast. North Bay with its sweeping sands and big waves is a good day out whatever the time of the year.
How did you get into boccia and can you explain the game to us?
I first found boccia when I was 10 years old and asked to be part of the local borough team in the Surrey Youth Games. Until that point, I had never heard of boccia. It was the first time I had ever played in a sport that was for me and until then I hadn’t even realised I was (very) competitive.
Boccia is a target ball game, in some ways similar to boules or bowls. It is a seated sport played indoors on a court similar in size to a badminton court. It can be played by individuals, and depending on classification teams or pairs. Some players throw but I am unable to hold a ball so I’m a BC3 ramp athlete, which means I play individually and in a pair. Each ‘side’ has 6 balls, red or blue, and we aim at a white jack ball, the balls are about the size of cricket balls but made of softer leather. There are 4 ends in my matches and we score by being closer to the jack ball than the opposition. It’s a bit like physical chess as it’s very strategic and tactical with the need to think several shots ahead.
When did you decide you wanted to be a part of the GB Paralympics team and when did you realise your dream could and would become a reality?
I’ve dreamed of being a Paralympian since 2000 when I watched the Sydney games. At that stage, I didn’t know what sport, just that I wanted to be part of the Paralympic movement. My dream started becoming a reality with each step I took up the ladder, each time I achieved more I set a new goal for the next stage. In late 2018 I got a GB try out and from then on kept being asked back to another camp. In February 2020 just as we went into lockdown I got invited on to the World Class Programme and then it became a real possibility.
There is so much dedication and time put into being an athlete. How do you keep up the motivation to keep training even when it’s hard?
I guess it is eyes on the prize, my dream has always been the Paralympics. It hasn’t always been easy whilst being a dual career athlete, that is studying and training. However, being on court was a good break from my desk, and I have always enjoyed my strength and conditioning sessions, plus getting out on my racerunner (a frame like a trike but without pedals, so I can run).
Who has been an inspiration to you?
Many many people, my first sporting hero was Caroline Baird who I had watched on TV in the Sydney Paralympics winning gold and silver medals. These days I am inspired to work hard by my teammates in UK Boccia, they are all world-ranked athletes, and as this is the first games I want to do them proud.
How can we get involved with the Paralympics 2020 and where and when can we watch you?
I’ve downloaded the Tokyo 2020 App, this shows what is on each day with match timings. Hopefully, Channel 4 will be giving us coverage as part of their Paralympic coverage.
What’s next for you?
More boccia! I’m aiming now for Paris 2024 (once I have Tokyo under my belt of course). Aside from that, I am passionate about raising awareness of the needs of people with complex communication needs. I use an electronic voice (like Stephen Hawking or Lost Voice Guy), and I want others to have the same opportunities to develop their potential that I have been lucky enough to have.
Images used thanks to Getty Images.
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