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Priory employee aims to inspire others as she competes in World’s Disabled Strongwoman Contest

An inspiring employee at a local hospital and rehabilitation clinic for those with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions has been selected to compete for the title of World’s Disabled Strongwoman.

As receptionist, Alfie Wright is an integral part of the team at Mildmay Oaks, a mental health service in Winchfield, Hook in Hampshire, run by Priory Adult Care, part of the Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists.

After winning first place at Britain’s Strongest Disabled Woman competition, Alfie has been invited to compete at the World Competition, which is being held in Canada on the 8th June. The competition will offer Alfie the opportunity to compete against athletes from around the world including Germany, Iceland and Spain, in a series of extreme strength tasks.

A keen athlete and runner from a young age, Alfie began encountering severe joint problems when she contracted stage 4 Osteo-Arthritis 17 years ago. Undergoing a total of 37 operations on her lower leg, Alfie suffered an Achilles and calf rupture, leaving her with no mobility in her foot and permanent plantar fasciitis (a condition which causes pain around the heel and arches of the foot). Offered an amputation of her foot by her doctors, Alfie declined and opted for a permanent foot and leg brace instead. Devastated by the impact, Alfie was left feeling demoralised. Reflecting on this difficult time, she says, “I felt very sorry for myself.”

It was around 5 years ago, in 2014, that Alfie discovered para-powerlifting and uncovered a hidden passion. Inspired by Paralympic athletes, she remembers: “I watched somebody swimming with no arms and legs, and I thought ‘what am I complaining about?’”. Spurred on to try something new, but not convinced swimming was right for her, a coach at her gym suggested powerlifting.

After winning both the British and English Paralympic powerlifting competitions in 2017, Alfie decided to reach out to Gary Clarke, founder of UK’s Disabled Strongman on Facebook, about entering the UK’s Disabled Strongwoman contest.

Since joining the team at The Priory’s Mildmay Oaks clinic around 14 months ago, Alfie is able to fit her challenging training schedule around her hours supporting patients and families, completing a 2-hour training programme each morning before heading into work.

In the run-up to a competition, this only gets more intense, rising to around 6 sessions a week of 2 and a half hours. Alfie adds “It’s tough. I thought I was strong anyway from being a Paralympic powerlifter, but this is a whole new level. I absolutely love it.”

The team at the Priory are constantly impressed by Alfie’s journey. She recalls one occasion when a colleague turned on the television and caught a glimpse of Alfie competing. “She was so surprised to switch on the TV and see me, she texted me right away saying ‘oh my goodness, Alfie, look at you go!’”

Having been crowned national champion just 1 month ago, enabling her to compete at the World championships, Alfie says, “I didn’t expect to win, a slight panic has set in!” Alfie is now determined to raise the £3,000 to cover the flights, accommodation and equipment she will need to be able to compete in Canada this June.

Jacqueline Davie, HR and Training Manager for Priory Healthcare, says, “We are all thrilled for Alfie, and so proud of her achievement. We all wish her well in the next stage of this prestigious competition.”

Offering her advice to others, Alfie says, “I started off with the same weights as everyone else. You have to remember everyone starts somewhere. People always worry at the gym that people will laugh at them, and this can be even more difficult when you have a disability. Just pretend people aren’t there and do your thing, and if anyone ever laughs, you can send them to me!”

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