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Published on Wednesday 12 May, 2021

When 26-year-old Emilie Miller was first approached to consider Wheelchair Rugby as a new sport, she initially had a bit of a giggle.

“I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do that,’ but the more I contemplated it, the more I was interested in giving it a go,” said Emilie.

Emilie has competed in paracycling at an elite level since 2015 and, based on her level of classification and history in paracycling, she was considered a good candidate for Wheelchair Rugby.

When Emilie was just 12 years old and ranked nationally in Australia for swimming, she suffered an injury whilst training at her local pool leaving her a quadriplegic.

“I was at training with some friends and practicing sprints when my back foot slipped during a dive,” said Emilie.

The slip, which caused Emilie to hit the water at an awkward angle, resulted in a C5-C6 spinal injury.

Determined not to be held back, Emilie purchased a hand cycle that she could use for cross training for swimming, as well as a social activity she could do with her younger siblings.

It wasn’t long before Emilie was put in touch with a coach in her hometown of Bathurst who had paracycling experience and who encouraged her to get involved in racing at a national level.

Emilie first started competing in paracycling in 2011 and, by 2015, she’d made the Australian team for the World Championships and World Cup. Impressively, she then made the World Championship team again in 2017, 2018 and 2019 where she became a 4 x World Champion.

It’s been three months since Emilie took on Wheelchair Rugby as a new sport, but she hasn’t looked back.

“Both paracycling and wheelchair rugby are demanding in different ways, but I love them both. I’m really enjoying the journey I’m on for rugby now whilst being fortunate enough to still continue with my paracycling.”

“It’s really hard to compare the sports. Whilst I was part of a team in paracycling, it’s still an individual sport, whereas rugby is far more team based and a lot more strategic and skills orientated,” said Emilie. 

Emilie is currently training for the upcoming National Wheelchair Rugby Championships being held on 28–30 May on the Gold Coast. She trains twice a week in Bathurst and travels to Sydney once a week for training alongside the NSW Gladiators team.

“I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to train alongside the Gladiators and get the best advice from the best people in the game.”

“I’m really enjoying learning new skills and challenging myself to make sure that I’m picking up the game correctly. I’m concentrating on working on a different set of skills and a different type of fitness to what I have previously done in cycling.”

When asked if she is feeling confident about the upcoming Championship, Emilie said it’s hard to say but she’s looking forward to having a good go at the competition.

“I’m lucky to have made some good connections in my team and be able to learn some really cool drills. I’m focussing on getting a good understanding of what I’m like as a player, what the expectations are and learning my specific role in the team.”

“I’m just trying to make sure that I’m as fit, strong and capable as I can be to be able to play my role well in a team setting.”

Emilie is playing in the Division 1 Bavarian team. Catch Emilie in action live at the event from Friday 28 — Sunday 30 May 2021 at the Gold Coast Sport and Leisure Centre or you can livestream the event at wheelchairrugby.com.au

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