It was during a bike ride with Team GB hopefuls back in 2009 that Charlotte Roach’s dreams of becoming an Olympic champion were shattered.
Chester born Charlotte, was in the triathlon team with her sights firmly set on the London 2012 Olympics.
“I was out with the team when my bike was clipped by another cyclist, and I ended up in the path of a Land Rover,” said 29 year-old Charlotte.
Charlotte’s back was broken in 12 places, she had broken her collar bone and both her lungs had collapsed.
“My coach thought I was winded luckily the passing motorist who stopped was a physiotherapist, she knew I was in a serious condition as I was struggling for breath and started to gargle.
“She made the call to sit me up, I wouldn’t have made it if she hadn’t.”
Charlotte shared her inspirational story with attendees of the West Cheshire Women’s Network, at the Holiday Inn Chester South on Thursday, June 21.
Founded in 2013, the women’s network provides an opportunity for businesswomen to come together.
Co-hosted by Natwest PLC, Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce and Cheshire West and Chester Council; the group meet four times a year with a different guest speaker at every event.
Charlotte spoke of how she had always been a sporting star and whilst at school was trained by Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes.
“As I was being flown to hospital by air ambulance I was still thinking about my training sessions and that run that I would be missing later than day,” she said.
“It only started to dawn on me about the seriousness of my condition when people started to visit me in hospital and they were crying.”
Charlotte admits that she never changed mentally, she was aiming to get back to where she was, although she didn’t know if that would be competing in the Olympics or the Paralympics.
Charlotte was in intensive care for a week, determined to stand and walk she left the hospital just two weeks later.
“I was booted of the programme as they said I no longer had any potential of a gold medal,” said Charlotte.
“But I was determined to continue, I tried to join in on bike rides with youth groups but I broke down, I found it all too much and found myself frightened of the other bikers, cars and pedestrians.
“I took myself off for rides alone and eventually got used to things passing me by.”
Charlotte had pushed through the many physical barriers she faced, but mentally she started to struggle with how much her body had changed.
Six months after her accident Charlotte took part in an international triathlon and came fourth, a great achievement for many, but Charlotte completed the event with her collar bone still broken.
“Training was ridiculous, half my back was still fixed with metal, my back couldn’t handle the training every day, so I could only train once a week.
“I could feel the metal work jarring when I ran.
“I waited until the end of the season and went in for surgery, that’s when I started thinking – what is this all for?
“I knew I couldn’t compete anymore.”
Charlotte’s attention soon turned to the air ambulance who saved her life.
“The air ambulance does not receive any government funding, it is supported through donations; the team saved my life,” said Charlotte.
Charlotte took on the mammoth task of cycling 16,000km from Beijing to the UK, crossing 16 different countries including China, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Europe, she raised £10,000.
Once back in the UK Charlotte soon found she started to dread exercise.
“It felt like really hard work which was strange as I thought I would enjoy exercise but I didn’t, it didn’t have a purpose for me anymore,” said Charlotte.
“I didn’t like the gym, or classes I just wanted to get out there and be active, whilst also having fun.
“That’s when the idea for Rabble was born”.
Rabble is ‘fun fitness’ and, four years later, is now held in 18 different locations in the UK, designed to be a ‘social run around’ for adults, with games including British Bulldogs, Dodgeball and Capture the Flag.
Sessions are held in Vicars Cross every Tuesday at 7pm, to book and for further information visit https://joinrabble.com
“Charlotte is a true inspiration to us all,” said Carol Vella, senior economic development officer at Cheshire West and Chester Council.
“It is unimaginable to believe that she is doing everyday tasks after her accident, never mind cycling 16,000km and starting up her own business.”
The next West Cheshire Women’s Network event will be held on Thursday, September 6 at The Holiday Inn Chester South.
The event will begin at 9.30am; attendees will be greeted with a selection of tea, coffees, pastries and cakes; it is then time to network before our speaker brings the morning to a close at around 11.30am.
Events are free but attendance must be registered, for further details visit www.wcnwchamber.org.uk