In 2020 Kylie became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Wheelchair Rugby. Although a mixed gender event, Wheelchair Rugby was predominantly made up of male players – Kylie was one of the pioneers to break that mould.
After a severe spinal injury in 2006, Kylie made her first appearance in the Paralympics in 2012 and in 2020 won her history-making gold in Tokyo. She said of winning ‘Fifty emotions hit you at once. It’s an overwhelming feeling of relief and achievement’. And the feeling of doing that with a group of people with similar backgrounds made it even more special, ‘It’s amazing working on a team who have been through hell and back to get to where we are. After a catastrophic injury you don’t even know how to live. This team teaches you that’.
Winning an Olympic medal had long been a dream of Kylie’s. ‘From five years old I wanted to be an Olympic medallist. From the minute I could walk, run I was into sport.’ Before her accident she was a competitive 400m runner and when those plans were derailed, she found another route to glory.
Kylie is very serious about her status as a role model. ‘I’ve had so many girls contact me saying I’ve started because of you. I get emotional about that’. And the impact of her winning gold is not lost on her, ‘Seeing the youngsters come through and look up to me is incredible. I do take that role very seriously. I want women to see there isn’t a difference in gender with wheelchair rugby.’
Being part of a male dominated team could be daunting for some but not for Kylie ‘At times you have imposter syndrome being the only woman on a team of men thinking 'can I do this?', but I know I can. And the men have been great. They say to me when we’re on that court I’m going to hit you as hard as anyone else! Which is fantastic’.
“My father disapproved of me playing rugby. Because of the social structure we have in India, there’s already a lot of restrictions on women.”
DEFENDERS OF TOMORROW
Positive changes today, for a better tomorrow.