7/7 survivor and Paralympian, Martine Wright, shares her story of triumph over adversity.
Motivated, enthusiastic and an advocate of change for the better, Martine Wright is the definition of an inspiring woman. Her story is that of survival and adapting to the curve balls that life throws at you. Having been out to celebrate London winning the 2012 Olympic bid, little did she know that the following morning (7 July 2005), she would be one of the last living people to be pulled from the wreckage at Aldgate Station. Incredibly, she re-built her life as a double amputee and went on the play in the London Paralympics seven years later.
“It is one of those days that everyone can remember where they were and how they felt,” began Martine, “I sat on the train that morning and read about the Olympics, excited at the prospect of getting tickets.” Seconds later an explosion rocketed through the carriage. By the time Martine was rescued she had lost three-quarters of her blood. The only reason Martine didn’t lose her life that day is the result of an off-duty policewoman (who Martine affectionately calls ‘her guardian angel’) who found a belt to use as a tourniquet. However, although Martine was alive, both of her legs had to be amputated above the knee.
In the chaos that ensued across London, it took Martine’s family two days to find her, “I can’t imagine what they were feeling at that time,” she says. “Throughout my journey, we have discovered a strength as a family that I didn’t think was possible. Having that support and belief that it will get better kept me going through the hardest times.
“Of course I asked myself, ‘why me?’” explained Martine, “I was in that mind set until I started physiotherapy – seeing other patients badly injured both physically and mentally shifted my perspective. Until that day I had no idea that 52 people had died. That is when I realised how lucky I was. I was only four feet away from a bomber, but I was alive.”
- I believe I was always meant to make that journey. I don’t know if it was fate but what I do know is that what I have achieved and the strength I have got from that belief has got me through this experience.
It was not long after the birth of her son, Oscar, in 2010 that Martine began to feel that she needed another sense of purpose in her life, “I began to miss the drive and ambition that I’d had before that day and I wanted what happened to me to mean something.” Her Physiotherapist suggested Martine take part in amputee games, allowing her the chance to try different Paralympic sports, “I completely fell in love with sitting volleyball,” enthused Martine. Developed after the Second World War as a sport for injured soldiers to play, sitting volleyball is the only Paralympic sport that is played sitting down and does not involve wheelchairs, “It is an extremely fast and dynamic sport. I find it liberating that being a double amputee is an advantage; it allows me to move faster and more freely across the court.”
For Martine, getting the chance to compete in the Paralympics - an event that when she celebrated the success of London’s bid back in 2005 she assumed she would only be able to watch – was incredibly cathartic, “I believe I was always meant to make that journey. I don’t know if it was fate but what I do know is that what I have achieved and the strength I have got from that belief has got me through this experience.
“Going on to the volleyball court for the first time reminded me of what I call ‘team me’; all of the people who put me back together and supported me after 7/7. The emotion was huge and I felt like stepping on to that court was me showing them that yes, we have been through tough times, but look at what we have all achieved.”
Empowering and inspiring, Martine embodies the Olympic spirit. But who inspired Martine while she was training to get to the Paralympics? “People seem to think that I am going to respond with the name of a famous Paralympian or sportsperson,” laughs Martine, “But for me it is real people; my family, my friends and the patients I mentor will always inspire me.”
For the woman who survived one of the UK’s worst atrocities, represented her country as a Paralympian and received an MBE for services to sport, surely the sky is the limit? “Last year, I released my book Unbroken and now there is a film in the pipeline,” says Martine, “I still play sitting volleyball and want to continue being an ambassador for sport and help people who are going through similar situations as me. I’m living a life now which I could never have dreamed was possible.”