Sofia discusses balancing her studies at City and training for the Paralympic Games
Watching the 2012 London Summer Paralympic Games was a revelation for Sofia Gonzalez. She immediately decided she needed to find out more about the equipment the Paralympian athletes wore.
Growing up, she had always been active – horse riding, dancing, playing tennis and skiing – but was unable to run as she uses a prosthetic leg in her day-to-day life.
In 2016, she attended a “Run and Play” sports camp hosted by the prosthetics company Ottobock and had the opportunity to test out a running prosthetic for the very first time, which she refers to as the ‘blade’.
“I’ve always been very sporty,” she said. “The first time I ran, I felt like I was flying. Being alone on the track is so freeing; I love the adrenaline. You have to give it your all.”
Joining the Swiss Paralympic team
With the financial support of her parents and sponsorship from PluSport, Sofia bought the blade and began competing. At first, she started training in a local athletics club in her home country of Switzerland. One competition led to another and in 2017, she was invited to join the Swiss Paralympic team and began to hone her 100m sprint and long jumping practices.
A year later, she qualified for her first big international competition, the 2018 Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin. Since then, she has competed globally, including the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships and the Tokyo 2021 Summer Paralympic Games.
“It all happened very fast,” she said. “Going to the Tokyo Paralympic Games felt like the stars were aligning for me.”
In 2023, she has set her sights on qualifying at the Paris World Para Athletics Championships. Looking ahead, she hopes to win a medal for the Swiss team at the Paris 2024 Summer Paralympic Games.
Studying at City
In her home country, Sofia is also a motivational speaker. Describing the first time she gave a talk to a company about her journey into athletics, she said: “I was really scared. But I went anyway and really enjoyed the experience.”
She continues to give speeches and presentations today at schools and for companies and is able to do so in the four languages she speaks – English, French, German and Spanish. She credits this work with inspiring her to better understand the media, which led her to selecting City for her bachelor’s degree.
“I knew I wanted to study in English and London is an amazing city. Of all the universities I applied to, City had the best curriculum,” she said. “The excitement of being on campus at City is the same as it was in my first year. I’m still discovering new parts of the campus and learning lots of new things.”
“It takes a lot of organisational skills to balance my training and studies,” she said. “For me, the two are complementary.”
Sofia believes her disability has contributed to making her determined and solutions-driven.
“Disabled people are skilled at overcoming obstacles,” she said. “If something doesn’t work for me in my training, I’ll find a solution or another way around it. We are not quitters.”
Sofia credits sports with helping her grow in confidence and allowing her to believe in herself. She said: “Disability can be a beautiful thing – I took my disability and turned it into an athletic career. My difference is my strength.”
She recognises that the financial burden of disability can be a limiting factor, such as the cost of buying a blade or an accessible wheelchair. She hopes to combat this by working in the media to help shine a light on the disability sports community.