British wheelchair racer puts faith in front of her as she trains for another Paralympics.
Growing up in school, wheelchair racer Karé (pronounced “cah-ray”) Adenegan didn’t know she could compete in sports.
Today, the 20-year-old is one of Great Britain’s top sprinters.
It was after watching the 2012 London Paralympic Games on television that her life changed, and she started dreaming big. Since then, she has earned three Paralympic medals, seven World medals and the 2018 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award.
Her journey as a T34 competitor with diplegic cerebral palsy, an ethnic minority in her country and a second-year history student at Warwick University in Coventry, England, has meant embracing opportunity and learning to speak on behalf of others.
“I was really inspired by the Games because I had never seen an elite Paralympic sport before,” she said. “My confidence grew when I met other people with disabilities, and I realized that sport is for everybody.”
Adenegan also said becoming her best self meant not conforming to cultural beauty standards and dying her short, natural hair different colors, including rose gold.
“My Afro hair is part of my journey,” she said. “Also, part of becoming unapologetic about who I am is embracing my full name, (Oluwakaré), which means, ‘God has done well,’ in the Yoruba language.”
Recently, staying motivated to train through the country’s third lockdown due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic meant sticking to a routine.
“I write down everything I want to achieve each day,” she said. “I also use music to make training fun at home when I am working out on the rollers.”
Her elite sport exemption gave Adenegan limited track access during the pandemic, and this season she will be targeting her local events in hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics, which start in late August.
She is back in the gym, too.
“This year has passed by quickly,” she said. “On the track, I’m working on endurance and learning to push through the inevitable wall of pain, and in the gym I’m building strength and challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone.”
Message Before Medals
Since starting wheelchair racing in 2012, it took six years for Adenegan to earn her first senior-level gold medal in the 100-meter wheelchair race at the 2018 World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin.
Along the way, her favorite race was the London Mini-Marathon, which is an Under 18s wheelchair race covering the last 3 miles of the London Marathon’s course and raises money for charity. In 2015, Adenegan broke the U14 girls course record, and in 2018, the U17 record.
However, she counts winning silver in the 100-meter at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games as her proudest achievement.
“There is certain pride about being a Paralympian aside from medals,” she said. “My disability opened an exclusive door to this movement, and I think society is more aware of disabled people. It feels great to be part of this shift.”
Aside from sports, Adenegan also interacts with the differently abled community on social media through a personal series of live talks about the dynamics between disability and race.
“When you’re passionate about something, it is easier to talk about, like the impact sport has made on my life,” she said. “Becoming an athlete increased my confidence, and my ethnicity has never hindered sporting progress. However, this is not the case for everyone. In Britain, Paralympic sports lacks diversity, so I feel a responsibility to welcome a next generation of Black and Asian people.”
Racing For Representation
Adenegan is from Coventry, England, where she started her athletic career with the Godiva Harriers Wheelchair Racing program. She was most recently showcased with others from the West Midlands during its successful bid to bring the Commonwealth Games to Birmingham, England, in 2022.
While she is chasing another podium, Adenegan stays humble.
“I try not to focus too much on numbers, but I am always targeting personal bests,” she said. “My Christian faith also helps with patience and trusting that I’m living in line with God’s plan. It gives me strength to persevere through hard times because I do get tired of student-athlete life sometimes.”
The most difficult thing on the road to her achievements, Adenegan said, is missing family social gatherings due to training and competition commitments. But her parents are both part of her coaching team, so they are never far from the trackside.
And if she were not an athlete?
“I might have been a singer before I committed to wheelchair racing,” she said.
During lockdown, Adenegan found a new voice as she builds her future.
“My ‘why’ is based on passion,” she said. “I have to constantly remind myself that I chose my degree because I enjoy the subject of history. Likewise, I train because I enjoy my sport and want to inspire others.”
Adenegan counts her blessings as she works to stay fit and focused.
“Everything is a blessing. Last year, I reflected on the simple things, like having an education, that are easy to forget,” she said.
After a long winter inside, Adenegan is dreaming again, too.
“If I could live anywhere in the world it would be Dubai [United Arab Emirates], where I competed in 2019 at the World Para Athletics Championship. It is a beautiful place – and a lot warmer than England,” she said.
To read more about Karé Adenegan, visit her blog at: https://www.kareadenegan.com/ or follow her on Instagram @kareadenegan.