In the last few weeks, we’ve seen Dancing on Ice return to our TV screens, which sees a group of celebrities learn to skate, and to perform intricate routines on the ice with their partners. This series has seen a few first: as well as ex-Steps star H becoming the first dancer to form half of a same-sex pairing, Libby Clegg has become the first blind skater in the series’ history. There’s so much more to Libby’s selection for the show than her visual impairment, which has taken much of the focus in her media presence.
Let’s not focus on the “inspiration porn” that surrounds Libby’s presence on the show – here’s five reasons you should draw inspiration from this incredible athlete.
Libby Clegg is Scotland’s most successful visually impaired female sprinter ever
Having competed at three Paralympic games – Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016 – Libby has won four Paralympic medals across two events. She picked up a silver medal in Beijing and London in the T12 100m. In 2016, Libby won double golds in the T12 200m and T12 100m, breaking a world record in the process. At her first IPC World Championships in the Netherlands, aged just 16, she took gold in the 200m sprint. European Championships? Libby got gold in 2012 in the T12 100m and 200m. World Championships? She’s taken one gold, three silvers, and a bronze since 2006. The World Games? She picked up a gold and silver there in 2011. And who can forget her 2014 gold medal performance at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games? Not us. World records mean nothing to Libby Clegg too; she’s smashed records at the Paralympics and the European Championships. It makes you want to scream Flower of Scotland until you’re hoarse.
Her whole family are incredible athletes
Not sure who to cheer for in an athletic event Libby’s not in? No worries, there’s probably a Clegg in there somewhere. Libby’s brother James, now retired from competitive events, took home a bronze in the 2012 Paralympics in the S12 100m freestyle, and was inducted into the Scottish Swimming Hall of Fame in 2018. Her other brother Stephen is also a Paralympian, having competed in four swimming events at Rio. Just last year, Stephen took home a silver medal at the World Paralympic Swimming Championships. Libby’s fiance Dan Powell also competed in the 2012 Paralympics, taking 7th place in the judo event. He’s also a 400m sprinter and holds the T11 British world record. As a pair, Libby and her husband also offer disability accessibility training through their company Ability UK. Way to make the rest of us feel like underachievers.
Libby spoke openly about her experience with mental health
Mental health can be a minefield, but Libby Clegg hasn’t shied away from talking about her experience with negative mental health. She’s spoken openly about how, after achieving all of her goals, she simply broke down at training one day in floods of tears, in what she calls “a mental breakdown.” Libby told the Telegraph: “I felt like I’d achieved my ultimate goals and it didn’t make me happy. I’d sacrificed my entire life and made some horrible choices over the years – not going to family funerals and not committing to previous relationships properly. I’d done all those things and it hadn’t fulfilled me at all.
“You just put everything into it and forget who you are as a person because you’re so focused and driven on being an athlete and winning medals. I sacrificed having a normal life. I just felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was horrible.”
Libby took a year out from competitive sport but has returned with a vengeance and saw her get back into training to defend her Paralympic titles in Tokyo this year.
It took Libby 214 days to come back to athletics after a traumatic c-section
Athlete, mother, superhero. Libby gave birth to her beautiful baby boy Edward in April of 2019, but everything didn’t go quite as smoothly as she’d hoped. Libby had been planning a home birth for her little one, but required an emergency cesarian section to bring him into the world after Edward decided he wanted to be two weeks late to the party. Libby being the woman she is, she decided she wasn’t going to take her recovery lying down – quite literally – and after four weeks of low-intensity training, she was back into her regular routine just two months after the invasive operation. In November, she was back competing for Team GB at the worlds in Dubai; the race didn’t quite go as she’d planned, with Libby being disqualified in the semifinals, but it’s still a phenomenal achievement.
Libby is still planning to smash it at the 2020 Games in Tokyo
Even with her plate full, Libby still has her sights set straight on Tokyo. In spite of everything that’s gone on in her life in the last few years – and her amazing performance on Dancing on Ice so far – she’s still set herself the most important goal, and that’s to defend her Paralympic title at the Games this year. We’re starting to question if Libby actually sleeps, or does she just train?