Finally I can share some hugely exciting news that I have had to keep to myself for several months. I have been selected after a year long process, nomination, application and interview, by the World Economic Forum to be a Young Global Leader for the Class of 2018. I first found out about the WEF and the YGL programme after the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. I was travelling in Australia and China after the end of my swimming career, retiring at the top of my sport. I attended a lunch in China and fate led me to meet Carol Li Rafferty, who listened to my speech about my journey not just as an athlete, but my work at the British Council, my love of cultural relations and languages from University, my work in education and sitting on charity and sports boards and working in welfare and safeguarding. She came up to me afterwards and said she was a YGL and would love to nominate me for the Class of 2018. This was back in December 2016. I researched the YGL group and could not believe the incredible list of current members but also the extensive and impressive list of alumni. We spoke over email for several months and she very kindly submitted my application. It was a touching moment at a point where in my transition as an athlete, I felt lost, doubted my abilities and completely alone, having left the elite sport community with no real links. Carol believed in me and gave me the courage to put myself forward for this opportunity.
I carried on with my life, changed jobs, announced my retirement from sport and did not think I would be short-listed given the strength of the field of nominations and the fact that there are only a small number of leaders selected across the world. So, when I received further requests to fill out an application form, I was very excited, but naturally tried to manage my expectations. For the final stage, I was selected for an interview and met a YGL alumnus. It didn't feel like an interview but was in fact a fascinating conversation with a very interesting person. If nothing else had come from my nomination, I genuinely enjoyed meeting Tom that day!
Fast forward to now as I announce my selection onto the programme 18 months after meeting Carol, I honestly don't think I have felt so proud since winning my Gold medal. This achievement felt even better and even more exciting. And so, it is with great excitement that I met a few YGLs in my cohort at the Welcome Event recently at the WEF headquarters and we had the honour of listening to Professor Schwab discuss how he founded the Forum. An unbelievable moment. I loved meeting my fellow YGLs and knowing that I will get to work, support and collaborate with them potentially in the future.
I cannot wait to get started and I am so happy that I am connected to an organisation and group of people that believe in me and each other and believe in working together for the better. I will endeavour to support and help nurture such a fantastic and diverse community.