GB Paralympic star Libby Clegg, 26, won 100m Paralympic silver at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and 100m gold at the 2011 IPC world championships. Aged nine she was diagnosed with the degenerative eye condition Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, like her brother and fellow GB Paralympian Stephen.
Now she has slight peripheral vision in her left eye only and is registered blind. In the past year her sight has worsened, causing her to be reclassified at the Paralympics – so she must now compete blindfolded, to negate her remaining sight.
Her Lottery funding was cut after she missed last year’s IPC world championships through injury; and in February she ended her five-year partnership with running guide Mikail Huggins, to team up with Chris Clarke.
How is it competing blindfolded?
“I ran my first race in a blindfold in July. Leaving the blocks at full pelt was frightening. It felt like falling forward into nothing. I had no concept of where the ground was and I felt sick.
“You’d think I’d run slower, but it made no difference to my times – in fact, concentrating is easier as I don’t think about trying to see where I’m going.”
You’ve had a turbulent build-up to Rio.
“It’s been very stressful. Missing last year’s world championships was devastating, and it was worse to lose my Lottery funding after nine years. It’s a crucial amount, around £20,000.
“What’s really detrimental is not so much the financial side as the private medical care whenever you need it – I no longer had access to doctors, physios, nutritionists, massage therapists, psychologists and so on. Without my personal sponsors I wouldn’t be here.”
Why change your guide runner?
“That was difficult. It’s a personal as well as professional relationship, so it was very hard to do. But I hadn’t improved since 2012, and I knew something was missing. Chris is fantastic and gives me a lot of confidence. I have huge trust in him.”
What are your hopes for Rio?
“I’d love to add a gold to my two silvers. If I’m on the podium, that’s great. But after the year I’ve had, I’d just like to get a couple of personal bests. I’m proud to be a Paralympian.”