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Paralympic medal hope Sally lost her funding following injury but now she's hard at work to see Rio dream come true

By Rebecca Black

Published 11/09/2015

Athlete Sally Brown from Ballykelly competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games
Athlete Sally Brown from Ballykelly competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games

One of Northern Ireland's top medal hopes at next year's Paralympic Games is having to work at a supermarket to fund her dream.

Sally Brown (20) from Ballykelly lost her funding as a professional athlete when an unlucky series of injuries meant she dropped down from the top three world rankings - a position her money was dependent on.

Since then, Sally has been working hard to return to top form in time for the Rio Paralympics next year following her injury. But now she is also faced with the challenge of having to financially support herself.

She has taken on a job working at Sainsbury's to help fund herself as she trains.

Sally has been plagued with everything from foot injuries to having her appendix removed last year.

Now she is based at Loughborough University and works 12 hours a week in addition to her training.

"I've been off funding for two years. To get it back I need to get back up to third in the world," she explained.

"It's expensive living over here so I got myself a job at Sainsbury's. If you want to make a career as an athlete you need to come here. It's really cool seeing and training alongside athletes I looked up to when I was younger like Perri Shakes-Drayton.

"The job is quite flexible, I work 12 hours a week. Sainsbury's are very supportive as they sponsor the Paralympics.

"I enjoy working. I'd rather be able to give 110% to my training, but if that's what I have to do to achieve my goals and stay here then that's what I'll do."

In the past Sally had dipped into her own savings to fund her training while completing AS-Levels in photography and art but that money soon dried up.

"I needed to get a job after the summer. I realised when I pulled out of the European Championships there was no chance of getting back on the funding," she said. "I had to run a fast time, which I was planning on doing at the Europeans. If my feet hadn't played up I was confident of doing that. I knew it wasn't going to happen. I sat down with my parents and figured out what I was going to do.

"They're not rich, so they didn't have money to help me. So I got a job in Sainsbury's. They've been really good. I told them I was an athlete and they said I can work when I want."

Sally has spoken of the support she has received from her boyfriend Jonnie Peacock - the T44 100m London Paralympic gold medal winner - and by their new puppy.

Last September the pair moved in together in a terraced house just outside Loughborough, where they train, and added a third member to their family.

"We got a little puppy called Luna," she said.

"She's a French bulldog.

"I've grown up and always had dogs."

Despite the couple both being athletes she said they do not talk about that at home.

"I love running and athletics but it's the last thing we want to talk about when we get home from training," she said.

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