In 1997, Andy Barrow was playing rugby for his local club when he suffered a spinal-cord injury that left him paralysed from the chest down, with limited use of his hands. He was aged just 17. The following year, his life was transformed again when he discovered wheelchair rugby – also known as “Murderball” – and joined the London Wheelchair Rugby club.
Andy was selected to train with the Great Britain squad in 1999, and narrowly missed out on a place at the Sydney Paralympics. Vowing never to miss a major tournament again, he dedicated himself to the life of a full-time athlete, and made his international début at the World Championships in Gothenburg in 2002.
Andy’s wheelchair rugby career encompassed three Paralympic Games, three World Championships, and five European Championships, where he was part of the record-breaking team that won three gold medals in a row. He captained Great Britain from 2005 to 2010, and led the team out at the Beijing Paralympics – one of his proudest moments. Andy has also spent time in America, representing San Diego in the US league.
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was the greatest sporting event in Great Britain’s history, and the perfect opportunity for Andy to end his career on a high. He took the decision to make this his final tournament before retiring as an athlete to pursue a career as an inspirational speaker and mentor.
Since then, Andy has worked as an athlete mentor for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and Sporting Champions as well as creating or collaborating on several mentoring projects including his hugely successful 3Cs Challenge. Andy has also taken his projects international, where he specializes in creating bespoke itineraries for schools and organisations. In 2018 Andy became a Laureus ambassador he has recently started a video project called "21 Tips from a Guy on a Roll".
"We thoroughly enjoyed welcoming Andy back and feel he is an inspiration to our children. His personal story makes it so very real but it is his description of how he turned this terrible situation into a positive that has true impact. He tailors every presentation and workshop to meet the needs of even very young children and it is his openness to answering their questions that is also particularly powerful. Thank you for showing Tanglin Trust School children what being a risk taker really is and for being the absolute definition of resilient! We look forward to welcoming Andy back soon..."– Paula Craigie, Head of Infant School, Tanglin Trust International School
"Andy was the guest speaker at our recent formal Annual International Meal. His speech inspired students and staff from over 40 countries. Andy shared his story of a very personal accident. He made it relevant to each individual in the audience and shared with us how he overcame challenges and succeeded. His speech was short, sharp and very clear. He did not dwell on his many incredible successes as an athlete but on the keys to success which he made relevant to each and every one of us. Our students left feeling inspired and more determined to meet their own challenges. Our staff found the speech hugely engaging and likely to repeat what they had heard to other audiences! After the meal, Andy stayed for a few hours. He spoke to our students in small, informal groups around the boarding house. He was humble about his own successes, celebrated those of our students and was engaging throughout. I feel that I have personally gained a great deal from listening to Andy and speaking to him for a short time. I would happily invite him to our school again in the future and recommend him highly."– Mark Venn-Dunn, Head of Boarding, ACS Cobham International School
"Andy Barrow joined us at City Hall with a room full of teachers to discuss the power of volunteering. Andy opened the event, and as he painted a picture for the audience, you could have heard a pin drop. Andy captured everyone’s attention as he talked about the hundreds of volunteers who had supported him as a Paralympian but then brought it right back to that first volunteer who supported him after his accident and what that individual’s support had meant to him. He managed to capture so beautifully the positive impact that giving your time can have on someone else, he definitely inspired many to sign-up to get started. Aside from the speech, Andy was so personable, friendly, easy going and genuinely passionate about supporting young people, it was a pleasure to have him with us for the afternoon"– Natalie Cramp, Programme Director, Team London
Thank you so much for your session delivered at our Year 10 conference yesterday. The feedback has been positive and your session has prompted some really interesting debate and questions - students have certainly ben challenged and have been prompted to consider what their own response might be, faced with the unexpected and subsequent challenges. The day was designed to get our students talking and thinking and your session did exactly that. Thank you.– Aimee Lyall, Principal, City of London Academy Highbury Grove
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