MEET THE TASS STARS OF 2022 – Most Determined – Megan Smithson-Booth
Goalball star Megan Smithson-Booth combines studies at the Royal National College for the Blind with life as an international athlete. But it’s been a challenging 18 months for the winner of this year’s Most Determined Athlete prize at the 2022 TASS Stars awards.
TASS: How does it feel to be a TASS Stars award winner?
Megan Smithson-Booth: It feels amazing. I really wasn’t expecting to win! I feel honoured to be picked for the award when you look at all of the other deserving athletes on the shortlist.
TASS: What does it mean to be recognised in this way?
M S-B: It means a lot. I’m so grateful. The award doesn’t just recognise me though — it’s a reflection of all of the support I’ve received from my team-mates, coaches, family and friends.
TASS: Can you describe how TASS support has helped you?
M S-B: TASS has helped me so much as a student athlete. The TASS medical scheme supported me during pre and post-surgery and I wouldn’t be back on court if it wasn’t for their support. The S&C and physiotherapy has helped me to develop as an athlete as well as rehabilitate me back into sport post-hip surgery. Their support has been invaluable.
TASS: Can you summarise the highs and lows of the last 12 months?
M S-B: I’d say the low was the first four and five months after surgery on my hip. I literally had to learn to walk again. A highlight was going to Malmo for an international competition with GB a few months after starting to play again. It felt so unreal to be back on court and with the team.
TASS: How have you grown as an athlete and as a person during that time?
M S-B: I don’t want to sound too cheesy but I would say I’ve grown in confidence. I’ve learnt to enjoy — and focus on — the process and less on the long-term goal. I’ve realised that becoming a better athlete, overcoming injury and sight loss is a process. I think this has helped me grow in confidence on court and off court. I’m learning to accept putting myself out of my comfort zone and I realise that making mistakes in training and in everyday life is fine. That’s how you improve as an athlete and develop as a person.
TASS: What challenges do you foresee during the next 12 months?
M S-B: One of the main challenges I think I’m going to come across this year is transitioning to university and to a new city and learning how to balance being a student: with the studies, the social side, training and competitions.
TASS: What are your primary targets in 2022/23 as an athlete and as a student?
M S-B: One of my targets is to get selected to be part of the Great Britain team for the world championships in Portugal which is one of three qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Paralympics. I want to continue to develop more as a goalball player and see what I can bring to the team on court in the future.
TASS: Who continues to inspire you to achieve your goals and why?
M S-B: I have a few people in my life who inspire me. My grandma Bernie is one of them. She is a very humble, selfless and resilient person. She has always pushed me and got me into all different sports from a young age. She always told me that you’re capable of doing anything you put your mind to. As long as you’re willing to put 100% into it you’ll get 100% out of it. She’s inspired me to carry on when there were challenges or obstacles in my way. She’s a legend.
Megan was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia (early 2021) which required invasive surgery and a challenging recovery. She knew that surgery may prevent her from being involved in competitive sport again. Megan overcame losing her sight in her teens and only recently found Goalball. Prior to her hip surgery she represented Great Britain at the World Youth Championships (bronze medallist) in Australia and the senior Great Britain team at the European Championships. Following her Hip Dysplasia diagnosis, Megan remained positive and determined to fundraise for her surgery and then to engage with health professionals to complete her rehab — with the aim of being pain free and to be able to participate in sport again. By May 2022 (ahead of schedule) she had returned to full sport and was selected for her first post-op GB competition.