Claire Bennett has an incredible ability to view life differently to many of us and has a story that is inspiring and so unlike anything most of us willever experience.
Starting fencing as an after school club, she took to it naturally. “I was very fortunate to have a coach who saw potential and believed in me,” says
Claire about her first coach. This seems as clear as if it was yesterday, the way she talks about those early days and the training she had to put in and
the sacrifices that needed to be made. “It was an instinctive reaction to a talent and the desire to achieve - that I would need to make sacrifices in
order to be on the world stage,” she reflects.
What is interesting, is that no sooner has she said that than she makes it very clear that although it was a sacrifice, it was also an honour and a privilege
to fence for England and Great Britain, travel to over 35 countries and play at an elite level for so long. “It’s not a sacrifice, in a way, it’s an opportunity,”
she says. This ability to look at things in a different way is a recurring theme throughout all the conversations we have - she is able to accept the lows
equally as she does the highs.
Captaining England to Commonwealth Gold in 2010 was the defining moment of a great fencing career for Claire. As she readily admits, “...that was one
of my proudest moments ever”. With less than two years until the London Olympics, Claire trained as she had never trained before, with her focus on qualifying
for the Olympics and the hope of an Olympic medal. At the last minute though, she wasn’t included in the squad. One can well imagine what that must have
felt like - the pain, questions and distress. But what sets Claire apart is once again her view of life and how she conducts herself. She speaks with such
positivity about the experience - she talks about having no regrets: “I don’t regret feeling as low as I did at the Olympics, because I wouldn’t have felt
anything if I hadn’t done fencing”.
This is an amazing way of looking at a huge life event. Her view once again is that fencing has given her so much and that she has enjoyed so much as
a result of it, that this is just the flip side. Steven Covey calls the ability to change one’s perspective of events a paradigm shift in thinking - and
Claire has this ability in bucketfuls. Huge amounts of character and strength are needed to walk this walk every day and this is what Claire has determined
to do with her life - and it’s a credit to her.
But how does someone move forward even if they have a good view on that experience? Once again, Claire is quick to comment: “What gave me the freedom
to move on was the knowledge that I had given it everything and trained more intensely in the last two years than in my whole life”. It is as though she
has made peace with the events and sees it as part of what has made her who she is today and that’s positive.
But for me, I still wanted to understand more about how it is possible to see life in this way. It seemed clear that there was a lot more underlying such
clarity, determination and way of looking at life. So we discussed at length what training she’d had in this field and what support she’s had, to get to
this point. The answer? No training, but the way in which she looks at life. “Life is not always smooth running. When I go to a theme park I want to go
on the craziest rides, biggest turns and drops because that’s what makes it exciting and makes you feel like you are living. Life is the same.” What an
incredible way of looking at life - being positive about the negatives, embracing them as friends to help you grow.
Part of Claire’s journey is that she knows she has something to give as she steps into her second career. There are two parts to it: first, she has started
working for the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust as an athlete co-ordinator and second, she is writing a book. The interesting thing is that as everything
with Claire, this isn’t just a biography, it’s a book about turning negatives into positives.
“My message is as long as we try our best there is always a lesson to be learned,” says Claire of the book and her desire to convey that to people.I can’t
express enough what a remarkable woman and athlete Claire is to be able to achieve what she has, to view challenges and overcome and look at things so
differently to the conventional. It takes courage and conviction, and it is a way of life she is totally committed to, having practiced it for years. Claire
has had a profound affect on me and I hope that her message will impact many a life, not just in the world of sport but in life in general.
I look forward to seeing her continued growth and the lives she will touch with her unique way of looking at things. Thank you Claire for sharing your
life views and trusting me with your story.