By Luke Kenton
This inspirational teen is determined to show she’s not disabled – just ‘differently abled’ – as she’s set her sights on international glory after becoming the first Brit to land a wheelchair backflip.
Proclaiming that his daughter, Lily, has always stood out from the crowd, Mark Rice insists, however, that it isn’t the teenager’s degenerative condition that’s distinguished her from her peers – rather her incredible determination and sporting talent.
Diagnosed with Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia – a rare genetic condition causing a progressive tightness and rigidity in the legs – Mark has always urged his daughter to never let her ailment hold her back, and it seems to be a mantra Lily’s taken in her stride.
Discovering the up-and-coming sport of Wheelchair Motocross (WCMX) online just under two years ago, the 14-year-old has since set the international stage alight, winning second place in this year’s World Championships, and attracting the attention of world champion, Aaron Fotheringham.
In just over a year, Lily has gone from her practicing in the parks of her small welsh town of Manorbier, to becoming the first Brit ever – and the first European female – to land a wheelchair backflip.
Reflecting on the incredible achievements of his daughter, who’s now ranked as No.2 in the world, Mark said: “Lily has always been individual and stood out from the crowd, even before her disability became prevalent.
“As the years have gone on, Lily has had to use her wheelchair more and more – but that hasn’t slowed her down.
“She’s pushed herself to climb mountains, cycle several miles and as each became more difficult we would look to adapt or try something different.
“After she discovered WCMX on the internet, she begged for tickets to see Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham perform, and after writing to him she even got to meet him afterwards.
“At the time Lily had a big, clunky NHS wheelchair, so practicing her tricks was very hard.
“Very kindly Aaron sent over one of his old chairs to Lily from the US and she’s been going from strength to strength ever since – it arrived just before her 13th birthday and she was ecstatic.
“Last month Lily travelled to Fontana, California, for the World WCMX Championships, which was an amazing experience.
“It was her first ever competition and she absolutely thrived.
“There were over a 100 riders and we were absolutely blown away when her named was called out for silver medal.
“Lily is now officially ranked as second in the world – a huge achievement for just one year of riding.
“Just six months in, in September, Lily became the first British person and European female ever to land a wheelchair backflip – it only took her six hours of practice.
“Along with working on developing the first European WCMX championship, Lily is also travelling to Europe to work with disability organisations to inspire others to ‘put the ability into disability’.
“Lily is hoping the sport is included in the 2024 Paralympics, where she’ll be going for gold.
“She’s determined to get the sport to grow and inspire others along the way.
“She stands by her motto of ‘You can do anything you want to, just put your mind to it or do it differently.’”