At 13 years old Rogers competed in the London 2012 Paralympics in seated volleyball before making the switch to sprinting
Julie Rogers, who at just 17 will soon call herself a double Paralympian, has had to grow up fast.
In 2012 as a 13-year-old, Rogers, a single-leg amputee athlete, was part of the British Paralympic seated volleyball team before making the switch to track and field, and she’s now preparing to compete over 100m in Rio.
Handed the T42 classification in 2013 as a result of an amputation above her right knee, Rogers has since made rapid strides on the world stage and finds herself ranked fifth this year after setting a personal best of 16.87 in early June.
Appearing on the international stage at 13 has helped the Bedford sprinter adapt to the demanding environment of senior performance sport.
While the nature of a team sport, especially one like seated volleyball, is a world away from the single-mindedness of international athletics, Rogers says the experience has enabled her to handle the demands of the switch and that it will help her in her second Paralympics.
She said: “I was thrown into an adult setting very quickly. I was training with them when I was 12. The next youngest was 10 years my senior. I couldn’t be a child. I had to be an equal athlete and prove I deserved to be there. I couldn’t be a burden by being young.
“I was thrown into a deep end in terms of having to grow up quickly. But I think that helped me get to where I am today and make the decisions I made. It will help me in my preparation going into these Games as an athlete still proving themselves on the world stage.”
Rogers has essentially lived a double life for the past four years, balancing GCSEs and now A-levels and life as a growing teenager with training as an aspiring Paralympian.
Through the support of Bedford Modern School, which has a performance programme to assist her strike an equilibrium between studies and training, her father who’s an MMA instructor, and physiotherapy provided by British Athletics, Rogers has the ideal support network to help her grow in both educational and sporting environments.
After her switch from seated volleyball to the track more three years out from the Rio Games, reaching a second Paralympics was always Rogers’ main focus.
“I did put the pressure on myself to make the team for Rio. I did it one step at a time. I wanted to do the national champs and World Juniors,” she said.
“I did two of them and went to the IPC Grand Prix on a senior level at international standard. My next goal finishing the World Juniors last year was making a senior championships, be it the Europeans at the beginning of the season, the Paralympics or London 2017. It was the next step in my development.”
Rogers still has a lack of experience at competing on the world stage and abroad, having competed in track and field only twice on the continent, but has the ideal mentor of Paralympic and world champion Jonnie Peacock to help ease any nerves.
It’s a steep but necessary learning curve for someone so young and one which will position her well for the coming years, for the London 2017 ParaAthletics World Championships and beyond.
“When it comes to performance I’m performing for myself. I’m executing a race the way I’ve been training. That’s the part I love about athletics. There’s a team environment but when it comes to performance is just you,” she said.
“I think having the home crowd is something you can’t beat. The drive you get from that is unique in its own way. That will be a great experience especially in an individual sport.
“Rio, even though it won’t be in front of a home crowd, it’s the same platform to race in. These experiences in my career will help me develop into being about to do great things in the Paralympics and major championships.”
» Julie Rogers is a BT Ambassador. BT is a long-time supporter of disability sport in the U.K and the Founding Partner to the British Paralympic Association.
If you want to support Britain’s Paralympians on their journey to Rio, you can donate to the British Paralympic Association’s #Supercharge ParalympicsGB campaign to generate support and raise funds for Britain’s Paralympics team. mydonatetelethonsappeals.bt.com/donate/supercharge2016