In episode 5, Nathalie McGloin talks about how wheelchair rugby helped her come to terms with her injury, the importance of changing her mindset and her new passion for motor racing.
Nathalie is a racing driver with a twist. At 16 years old Nathalie was involved in a road traffic accident resulting in her breaking her neck at level C6/7. This has left her completely paralysed from the chest down.
The accident never deterred her from driving and in 2015 Nathalie became the first ever female spinal injured driver to be granted her race licence in the UK. 2015 saw her complete her first race season in The Porsche Club Championship racing a hand controlled Cayman S. That first season also saw her compete in her debut endurance race, the Race of Remembrance 1000km at Anglesey where she formed an all spinal injured race team, again the first of it’s kind in the UK. Visit her website here.
THE TRANSCRIPT BELOW WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, WE CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.
TX: 1.12.16 – Ep 5. Nathalie McGloin – racing driver on the transformative power of sport
HOST: TAMMY PARLOUR[Music]
TP: Welcome to A Question of Performance. I’m Tammy Parlour and in this series I’ll be talking with leading figures from sport and business about what improves, limits and drives performance. Join me for 20 minutes of discussion twice a month to hear a range of views on what it means to be successful, how to cope with failure and what people have learnt along the way.[Music]
Today I’m with Nat McGloin the first woman with a spinal cord injury to hold a racing licence. Last year, she completed her first race season in the Porsche Club Championship racing a hand controlled a Cayman S. Nat, thanks for joining me today.
NM: Hi Tammy, well thanks for having me on today. I’m really honoured that you’ve asked me to be a guest on your show.
TP: Now motor racing wasn’t your first sport. When we spoke last, you mentioned that you’d be a fulltime GB wheelchair rugby athlete, and what really struck with me was that you described it as “being the making of me.” Can you talk a little bit about that?
NM: I was introduced to wheelchair rugby when I was an inpatient doing my rehabilitation after my injury.
TP: So that was about age 16?
NM: Yes, so I was in hospital for 11 months and I think 3 months after I’d been admitted as an inpatient to the rehab unit, Pinderfields. My physio took me along to this training session, and I’d been surrounded by people in the rehab unit who were grieving and coping with the loss of their able-bodied selves really and trying to come to terms with a very different life, which was quite difficult for everyone involved at the spinal unit to kind of cope with. But going to this training session and seeing these guys who had similar levels of injury and really getting on with life and passionate for the sport, I really took something from that. And when I went back to the unit, I kind of picked my head up and got on with the rehab and the physio and got out of the unit to go back to school and get my A Levels and go to university, and it was the first thing that I remember as being a real impetus into sparking off a bit of a fight inside me to overcome my injury.
And when I went to university there was a local rugby team there and I started training with them in my second semester of university and went to my first tournament in the summer of my first year of being at uni and it was just a massive change for me. These guys are incredible, they were just doing things that I really didn’t think possible to do in a chair, and it was the time where I really felt like I had kind of won with my injury and that I was now in control and my mind-set just completely changed as to who I was, what I could do and what was possible.
TP: Yes, and you played wheelchair rugby all the way through your university career?
NM: Yes I did, I actually took my final year of university over two years in order to try and train and get onto the Olympic squad to go to Beijing. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the selection. I think, for the want of not wanting to blame anything, I didn’t want to give up my university degree and I’d done it for four years and I wasn’t going to leave without that certificate.
TP: When you didn’t make Team GB, what did that do to you? How did you process that the disappointment?
NM: I was really quite negative about it. I tried to find all of the reasons why that didn’t happen and instead of doing what I probably would do now and looking at it and thinking, ‘Right, where did I fall down? How can I change that? What’s in my power to make it possible that the next time around I will succeed?’ I started looking at all of the things that I had no control over and blaming all of those things, so it somehow took…
TP: That’s very human.
NM: …it took a bit of the responsibility of the failure away from me in my mind, but it wasn’t very conducive for just moving forward, I guess? And I was really quite broken by it, to be honest.
TP: Did you stop rugby totally at that point or did you keep going?
NM: Oh no, no, I couldn’t it was [laughs] [over speech].
TP: [Laughs] Yes.
NM: When the selection had been made I did pick my head up and it was a little bit like when I went back to rugby the pressure had gone slightly and I did start to play better. And people commented on it and it was weird because the mentality was quite negative in this blame culture that I had of everything else why that wasn’t my fault. And then the good instead of thinking that the good form in my game was a positive thing, I just kept thinking well, they didn’t choose me and then look at how well I’m playing, they made a mistake blah blah blah, which it was such a negative mind-set that I think that, I don’t know, it was hard to enjoy it, I guess?
TP: Yeah. To be able to reflect on that and to look at your mind-set that would I suppose imply that you’ve moved out of that and moved onto something more positive?
TP: How did that happen? How were you able to change your mind-set?
NM: Well once I think I’d finished my university degree when I actually decided to move down to London, and one of the motivations for moving was that that the best team in Europe were based in London, the London Wheelchair Rugby Club, and I knew that if I was to stand any chance of getting into the squad the next time around I had to train with these guys, I had to have the experience of playing in Europe at that level with these guys under that coach to have any chance of making it work. So I just upped sticks and I went down and I threw myself whole-heartedly into training, and I think that move to London was kind of the close of one door and the opening of another in that I’d done my university degree and I no longer had any distractions. And the aim was very very clear and I was tunnel-visioned about it, everything fitted in around my rugby and that was my reason for life if you like [laughs] at that time, and I think that helped the focus and changed the mind-set?
TP: And then London 2012…
TP: …and you, unfortunately, didn’t make the team in 2012?
TP: How was that for you?
NM: There were a lot of people that didn’t make the team for 2012 and not all of them for reasons that were very fair. I wasn’t one of those people that didn’t make the team because I was unfairly judged in my performance level, when I moved down to London I’d got into the team and I’d got going with everything and then I went to a tournament in Toulouse and I met my boyfriend at the time, who was also a wheelchair rugby player, and I hadn’t really had a relationship that I had with him with anyone else before and we both kind of got a bit carried away with just really enjoying life and rugby was put on a bit of back burner. But after we’d kind of had almost a honeymoon period of the relationship of going to different countries, travelling the world and just having fun, he got onto the GB squad and I knew from then on that whilst he was on the squad and we were in a relationship there was never going to be a place for me there.
NM: But that was, again, I wasn’t going to sacrifice my relationship for that, so I was kind of happy with my decision and I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll keep going with this.’ Neither of us made the squad and politics within rugby changed quite a lot and after 2012, my passion for the sport died a little bit, so I was always looking for something else then.
TP: And your passion for rugby died but your passion for something else developed?
TP: Talk to me about the shift over to motor racing?
NM: It was actually at the same tournament that I met my now ex-boyfriend that I was told about this thing called track driving. I’d always had sports cars and was very competitive with my cars in that I always had to have the best one – not competitive as in stupid driving on the road, but the kind of status that being able to drive one of these cars and a Porsche 911 gave me in mind anyway was quite important [laughs] to me. So when I found out this thing called track driving was a thing, I went to Bedford Autodrome and took the 911 round the track and just instantly fell in love with it, I was like this is brilliant, so why didn’t I know this existed before? And I did that as a hobby throughout my time in London and training get on the GB squad, so I had to make a decisions, was I going to fight for Rio in a sport that I didn’t love anymore – I still love it retrospectively but I didn’t have that same drive and that same passion for it, or was I going to do something else? And if I was going to something else, what was it going to be and it was going to be motor racing, so it was a nice transition [laughs] really.
TP: When you look back at your career be it in rugby, be it in motor racing, what are you most proud of?
NM: God, that’s a tough question. I don’t do self-congratulations very well to be honest [laughs]. What am I most proud of? Individual performances within racing, I’m fairly proud of my finish at Brands Hatch this season in the wet where I qualified 18th and finished 8th which was my highest finish and pretty good to make up ten places in a 15 minute wet race, I’ll always be proud of that and I’ll always have that. I think really immaturely [laughs] another thing that I’m very proud of my boyfriend and I went to an endurance race last year and I beat him – I can’t remember how much it was – I should do because I’ve got the piece of paper and I remind him of it very often. I think I guess if I thought about it properly, with rugby the proudest thing that I probably achieved was coming to terms with my injury? And I think – yeah, I think that’s probably the bit…the life-changing thing that happened to me was accepting what had happened to me and learning to cope with it and moving forward and that was rugby, rugby did that for me. But obviously I did it for myself as well but I think that that’s something to be fairly proud of.
TP: Yeah. Looking to the future, do you have any goals in mind, your sort of top two goals for the future?
NM: I want to do a 24 hour race.
NM: Well because they’re just brilliant! I’ve been to a few as a spectator and [s.l. vent 12:15] racing is fantastic, I love it that’s what the Porsche Club Championship is, but endurance racing is different. I come from a team sport background, I love the sense of being part of something great and endurance racing is that. The obstacles that you overcome within that 24 hour period are massive and you’ve got to pull together to make it work. There’s no [s.l. iron – 12:43] team as that massively clichéd saying reminders of every time but that’s so important in endurance racing, there can’t be any prima donnas you can’t have anyone that thinks they’re more important than anyone else. The mechanics, the people that hold pit board out, the people that fill the car up with petrol, the drivers – everyone’s as important as each other and it’s just, at the end of that 24 hour period, the feeling must be enormous.
TP: It’s been absolutely fantastic talking to you. Just to end up, I’ve just got a few quick fire questions to throw at you.
TP: So, what did you eat for breakfast this morning?
NM: A bowl of Shreddies.
TP: Favourite piece of kit?
NM: My carbon helmet.
TP: Sporting hero?
NM: Probably Alex Zanardi.
TP: And why?
NM: Just his attitude towards his life is incredible. Injured in a car accident, lost his legs, he’s grateful for being alive every day.
TP: A useless piece of advice that you were given?
NM: Not useless, but someone told me before I started racing about my fear, they said to me – and it was a message received on Twitter from someone that I knew vaguely but now know quite a lot better, “The fear you feel coming into a race is an unspecified fear. When you get on the racetrack you’re just driving on a track in that race,” and that was not a useless bit of advice but something that stuck with me, and something that I do remind myself of quite often.
TP: Okay, two more. Greatest passion outside of sport?
TP: And the last one, best performance enhancer?
TP: [Laughs] Brilliant! Nat, thank you so much, it’s been wonderful talking to you today.
NM: Thank you, Tammy.[Music]
TP: Thanks for listening. You can follow the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and also don’t forget to subscribe online to aquestionofperformance.com.[Music]
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