Balance for better

8 March 2019

Happy International Women's Day! This year we caught up with two time Paralympian world champion Olivia Breen about what ‘Balance for Better’ means to her. 

Olivia Breen striking the #BalanceForBetter poseI am so excited to have become a new ambassador for Leonard Cheshire. I first had contact with the charity at their Christmas Carol concert a few months ago.

I loved every minute of the occasion and really enjoyed meeting the people involved with the charity.

I was particularly struck with the hashtag ‘Actually, I can’ because I always try to be as independent as possible.

Nothing makes me happier

I am a twin and I was born seven weeks prematurely. When I was a few days old I was diagnosed with a meningitis type illness which left me with cerebral palsy.

I am also deaf and have some learning difficulties. I was late reaching all my milestones but I always wanted to do whatever my twin, Dan, was doing.

When I eventually was able to walk I found running much easier and have loved it ever since! Nothing makes me happier!

Olivia Breen

I always found school hard but loved sports day. At my first sports day in infants’ school I won my race and everyone was really shocked — they never expected it because I struggled with most other things — I loved the feeling of running and even more of winning!

Finding my feet

Loving sport really helped my co-ordination when I was little and had a huge impact on my life from a young age.

I have always been in an athletics club and joined City of Portsmouth Athletics Club when I was 13. I loved training and competing with my friends there, and even though I was usually at the back of the field, I was really happy.

When I was 15 I went to Talent Day with British Athletics. I didn’t really want to go but I am so glad that I did.

Olivia Breen running

I had never really met other people with cerebral palsy and it was so good being in a competitive environment with people with similar conditions to mine.

I had no idea how competitive I was as a disabled athlete and in my first competition after being classified I was ranked first in my class (T38) in the UK. 

It was unbelievable! Six months later I was lining up on the podium at London 2012 and even more amazingly I won a bronze medal as part of the T35-8 relay team.

What I need to keep being me

Sport has led my life in a direction I never imagined.

Keeping my body healthy is really important to me and is also really important to my mental well-being.

Being in the fresh air and being active is what I need to keep me being me!

This year's theme is #BalanceForBetter — better the balance, better the world. Join in the conversation by using the hashtag on your social media.


Congratulations Olivia. The charity could not wish for a better role model. One of the things that has worried me the most, is whether my son will be able to live independently. As a parent of a child with disabilities, it is so important to know that there are organisations like this to help. Olivia is an excellent example of what you can do when you work hard and decide you can!

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