Paralympic champion Clough more determined than ever to reach Tokyo
Paralympic champion Grace Clough is refreshed and renewed with Tokyo in her sights.
The Sheffield Para rower, part of the PR3 mixed coxed four boat that claimed gold in Rio, has returned to training following a serious pelvis injury.
The 28-year-old began her Paralympic journey after attending a taster event in 2013, never envisaging where it might take her.
"I just love sport and I didn't think that day would change my life, but it really did," said Clough.
"I got invited on a training camp and within four months I'd won my first seat race and was going to my first World Championships.
"We won and it rolled onto the next and I was trialling for Rio and becoming Paralympic champion, it was all a bit of a whirlwind.
"I remember thinking I didn't set out on this journey to win a gold medal, I set out on this journey to be a Paralympian.
"To come out of this journey, to go around and say I'm a Paralympian is one of the proudest things ever."
Clough only began training full-time with the British squad in January 2014 – six months later, she was a world champion.
Gold on the global stage was a feat she'd go on to repeat four times, either side of a thumping triumph in Rio alongside Daniel Brown, Pam Relph, James Fox and cox Oliver James.
At this year's World Championships, the four-strong boat retained their world title and secured a place for the boat in Tokyo with Clough sitting on the sidelines.
The former High Storrs School pupil is eyeing up a return to the crew but after her injury, she has a different approach to the season.
"My goals for the next 12 months are to try and get back into the squad but also to know I'm going in as a very different athlete," added Clough.
"I just need to maintain what I'm doing now. I don't have to go in straight away with a bang, but I just need to keep enjoying it and keep doing what I did when I joined, which was being a bit oblivious to it and loving it.
"Tokyo would mean everything. You don't know how hard it is coming back from injury until you've done it.
"Looking back to Rio, I got ill but I didn’t get injured and I had a lot of support from them getting me back to health.
"Whereas this one has been a bit more of a personal journey and so I think I would feel a huge sense of pride and achievement.
"They say your second is never as good as your first but with how hard it has been, I think it would feel just as lovely."