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Up-Close with Emily Gray

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Swimmer and academic, Emily Gray is well respected and much admired by many athletes all over. She is a multiple Paralympian and if she gets selected for Rio, this will be her third Olympics. Emily has a deep desire for excellence and has always set high standards for herself since she lost her leg at the age of 12, competing with and doing brilliantly with able and disabled bodied athletes.

She has a special heart for young female athletes, especially disable girls. She has a sound and wise perception that success is fluctuating journey, and not a steep upward curve! She says “I like to think I am humble and an inspiration to others while being caring and considerate. I would like to become a thought leader in the area of disabilities”. She is proudly coached by Emile de Bruin.


Athlete: Bio / Stats

Name & Surname Emily Gray
Nick Name Ems
Date of birth 23 August 1991
Place of birth Johannesburg
Current City Pretoria
Height 165cm
Weight 65kg
Shoe Size 8
Club TuksSwimming
Coach’s Name Emile du Bruin
Out of Country events IPC World Championships 2014 Glasgow
Favorite City New York City
Favorite Song/ type of music I love the old school classics like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles as well as some of the newer stuff
Favorite Movie Zoolander
Tertiary Inst Name/ Year University of Pretoria 2015
Tertiary degree/ diploma Degree in Sport Science
Sponsors High Performance Center, Speedo, FutureLife
Twitter and Instagram,


Twitter & Instagram : @EmilyGraySA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmilyGrayPage/

Parents Names, siblings Robert & Lesley Gray

3 sisters: Lucinda, Fern & Victoria



Q: You have just realized a wonderful dream yet again, being a celebrated Olympian already, to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Wow and well done. What is on your heart and mind right now concerning this qualification?

I am very excited to have reached 2 qualifying times for my 3rd Paralympic games. I feel like I have gained so much experience throughout the years I know just what to expect. However, the Paralympic team still has to be announced as South Africa have only been allocated a total of 6 slots for men and women.  I am not sure as to when the team will be officially announced so in the mean time I am staying focused and training hard and hoping that I will be selected for the final team!

Q: Respecting and being grateful for the journey that you, your parents and coaches have been on till now. Also for the benefit and encouragement of young and up-coming little dreamers that see you as a hero – how was your swimming performances at about age 13/14?

I had had my leg amputated at 12 years old and shortly began swimming after that as a form of rehabilitation. At about 14 was when I really started to pick up the training (8 sessions per week)

Q: Who are you? Describe yourself as a person.

I like to think I am humble and an inspiration to others while being caring and considerate. I would like to become a thought leader in the area of disabilities.

Q: Beside swimming, what else do you have a passion for?

I would like to eventually become a doctor one day. I also would like to be seen as an ambassador for amputees worldwide while discovering new local cafes , markets , photography and of course being around my friends and family


Q: What is your personal favourite motivational quote?

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”  ― Dr. Seuss,

Q: When an athlete hits some “hard / difficult” patch in their sports career, what goes through your mind at that time? What advice can you give other young athletes in this regard?

Every signal athlete will stagnate in performance at various points in their career and it is very important to understand that success is not a straight upward line but will rather fluctuate. And it is critical that athletes’ don’t become too hard on themselves when this happens.  Success is a process and we need to enjoy this process otherwise there is no point in taking part really. I have had to deal with many failures in my career but because I understand that it is a long term process and nothing is ever detrimental I am able to pick myself back up and make sure I take a valuable lesson from my failure.

Q: In your opinion, how do you define greatness in life?

Greatness for me is being truly happy in every aspect of your life. Physically, emotionally and mentally.

Q: What’s your WHY ?  Why do you do what you do?

For me swimming was a tool I used to break away from my disability. I felt so bound by my crutches after my amputation and the water essentially gave me the freedom of movement I so deeply wanted back. Then once I had adapted to the water I wanted to be seen and treated just like everyone else. So I began training harder and harder so I could eventually keep up with the abled bodied swimmers. Now I swim because I want to become the best possible version of myself.


Q:  Also, looking into the future, what type of influence do you see yourself having on our nation’s and continent’s youth?  What example would you like to set for the one’s coming after you?

I would love to inspire the next generation of swimmers, especially the disabled girls. Swimming is an extremely tough sport, there is very little to no money and few support systems in place. There will be an innumerable amount of sacrifices you will have to make, but in the long run it’s well worth it.

Q: One thing about Emily that the world does not know J

I make some killer French toast

Q: Favourite meal?

I once had a lobster roll in NYC and it was out of this world! I also love dumplings’ J


Thank you so much for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best for your journey ahead. We look forward to following you as you go from strength to strength. Blessings!

NB – All images were supplied by the athlete to Heslop Sports. If there are any images that are not credited correctly, please email info@heslopsports.co.za with the details and we will gladly do so immediately.

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