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Dr Gillian Mara

'Success – choice or chance?'

Gilly was a shy child until the discovery of canoeing at 15 helped grow her confidence. She entered her first national competition at 17 and was selected for her first international at 20, but a serious spinal injury to her neck meant she was unable to compete. However, she came back fighting. Three years later, Gilly competed internationally and went on to reach the podium at 30. In 2016 she set multiple world records as part of an all female crew who rowed over 3,000nm across the North Atlantic.

Alongside her athletic prowess she also has a successful career, which began with gaining a doctorate in engineering in 2007. Since then she has been a professional coach, an academic, a published author and now works in the automotive sector – recently being named in the industry’s top 100 most inspiring women. Gilly is passionate about inspiring others to push their limits and shares her story with young people through her role as a Sky Sports Changing Lives Athlete Mentor.