As a child Kelda’s life revolved around sport, she played netball at a national level, and sport very quickly became what defined her as a person and who she wanted to be.
She was never one of those children that were naturally good at sport, but from a young age she relished the challenge of training and working hard to be the very best she could be.
Her real passion lay with horses, and she dreamt of representing her country and riding at the Olympics. When she was 9 years old she painted the Olympic rings on her bedroom wall, and when she walked her dogs, she used to stand on the top of styles and sing the National Anthem pretending she’d just been presented with her gold medal. It was all she thought about.
She didn’t come from a wealthy family so she didn’t get her own horse until she was nearly 16 after having to first achieve decent grades in her GCSE’s. However, she couldn’t afford a very good horse, so she spent the next 4 years dedicating every waking hour to training and developing the two of them as a partnership.
And they started to look like they had the potential to go where she dreamt of going.
However, one day while out exercising, they were hit by a lorry. Her horse was killed and Kelda was badly injured.
It was a tough time, but after recovering and taking some time out, Kelda got back into horses, however she moved into racing. She believed her Olympic dreams were over, but she achieved success and rode and trained a number of winners.
And then she sustained the injury that was to change the rest of her life.
A bale of haylage, weighing around a tonne, fell off the top of the stack and crushed her underneath, causing a serious leg injury.
For a while it looked like she would lose her leg, but after several operations the surgeons saved the leg and, 4 months later, sent Kelda home as physically fixed as she was going to be.
However, in her mind she wasn’t the person she used to be. She couldn’t run, she couldn’t train like she used to or play the sports she loved. But Kelda couldn’t accept that she couldn’t do these things as a result of her injury, so she continued to try, and in her eyes continually failed.
This had a huge impact on her confidence and self esteem.
Kelda spent 10 years trying to be the person she used to be… and in her eyes failing.
Then she decided to climb Kilimanjaro, and it was on this expedition that things began to change. Kelda realised she needed to change how she viewed her leg and she needed to start focusing on the things she could do, and not the things she couldn’t.
Kelda came home and began retraining as an outdoor instructor, and subsequently set up a charity called Climbing Out. Climbing Out runs 5 day outdoor activity programmes aimed at rebuilding confidence and self esteem in young people who have been through life changing injury or illness. The charity has helped over 200 young people to date. (www.climbingout.org.uk)
For a long time Kelda thought Climbing Out justified why her injury had happened, but there was still something missing. That person who liked to push herself beyond her limits, challenge herself to the extreme... she still wasn’t satisfied.
Then in 2013 she was given the opportunity to attend a talent ID day for GB Paracanoe. 6 months later she was selected for the podium potential programme, and 12 months later Kelda was selected for the GB squad with the Rio Paralympics the prime target.
In 2016 she went to the World Championships where she finished 10th. Her eyes were set firmly on Rio. Maybe at last she was going to fulfil those Olympic dreams...
But unfortunately it didn’t quite work out. At the Rio selections Kelda was beaten by the current World Champion, and with only one spot available for the Games, she didn’t make the team.
She was devastated. It made her question everything that had happened since her injury.
However, here’s where Kelda says it’s all about believing in your journey. As a result of not being selected, she was given the opportunity to join an adaptive team aiming to climb Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America.
On January 19th 2017 she became the first recorded adaptive female to successfully summit the mountain.
The expedition was an extremely tough challenge, but standing on the summit... well, at last, that gave Kelda what felt like her very own Gold medal.
Aconcagua taught Kelda so much. Everyone had told her that her leg injury would make summiting almost impossible. Kelda herself believed she could do it, but she thought she was going to be in a huge amount of pain.
But what actually happened was something completely different. With the help of some specially adapted crutches, she was actually in very little pain and she smashed that mountain!
How easy would it have been to have used all those excuses as a reason to stay at home and not even try... but if she’d done that, she would never have found out just how achievable it was!
How many young people are sat at home being told or thinking they can’t do something – so much so they don’t even give things a go.
Kelda came back passionate about spreading a message, passionate about inspiring and supporting people to have the confidence to try... because so often when we give things a go, we achieve so much more than we ever thought possible.
And so she decided to take on the Atlantic Challenge, and in doing so she hopes to give others the confidence and self-belief to get out there and give things a go. To stop saying “I can’t” and start saying “How can I?”
She hopes that through Row to Raise a network of support can be created that will inspire and enable young people to achieve.
To Try is To Succeed