Downing, author and shooter, speaks on literary exploitsOn the United Nations’ World Book and Copyright Day, the US athlete reflects on how her book is still helping others. 23 Apr 2016
“Most of the sports I have done have been about beating the clock, going harder, pushing your heart rate. In shooting, it’s about control. It’s clearing your mind of all chatter, sticking to the same process over and over again and slowing things down. It takes such mental control.”
Six years on from the release of her memoir ”Cycle of Hope: My Journey from Paralysis to Possibility,”, the USA’s multi-sport athlete Tricia Downing’s powerful message of perseverance continues to captivate and inspire people from all around the world.
In 2000, Downing was involved in a cycling accident when a car turned into her path and consequently left her a paraplegic. Despite being paralysed and facing an uphill battle, Downing turned her misfortune into an opportunity and has gone on to represent her country in a number of sports including para-triathlon, rowing and more recently, shooting.
“When I tell the story these days or someone reads the book for the first time, it often brings up the feelings of whatever adversity the reader or audience member is currently feeling in his or her life and many times gives them food for thought for facing their own challenges with strength and grace. I love the fact that people can find such inspiration from my story,” said Downing.
Her success speaks for itself particularly when it comes to physical challenges, but putting pen to paper to share her athletic adventures and educate others about having an impairment was a daunting task for the 46-year-old.
“Writing a book was intimidating for me. In comparison to sports, I don’t usually feel that kind of intimidation in athletic situations,” Downing said. “I have done so many sports, that it’s natural for me to walk in and think, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing, but I have the confidence of my past successes to figure it out.’ That’s exactly what happened to me with shooting.
“I had never even held a gun before the first day of shooting and, to be honest, I was terrified of them. But I had the drive to learn, people around me who were willing to take the time to teach me and the knowledge that I have developed has given me the mental toughness to stick with an athletic task until I can master it.”
Downing took up shooting just 17 months ago and as expected, her natural talent and determination enabled her to pick up the sport extremely quickly, finishing inside the top 20 in P2 (10m air pistol SH1) at the 2015 IPC Shooting World Cup in Osijek, Croatia.
“Most of the sports I have done have been about beating the clock, going harder, pushing your heart rate. In shooting, it’s about control. It’s clearing your mind of all chatter, sticking to the same process over and over again and slowing things down. It takes such mental control,” Downing continued.
“I was very proud of my performance in Croatia last year since I had only been shooting for a handful of months, but I was disappointed with my results at the Fort Benning World Cup.”
Downing was unfortunate to miss out on securing a quota place for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Fort Benning, USA, but she will certainly be aiming for a Paralympic berth in four years’ time when Tokyo 2020 rolls around.
In the interim, Tricia will continue writing and sharing her stories with the world.
“For me right now, it’s all about work. I’m not sure about a sequel to my memoir - I joked about it with a friend that it should be called ‘Shooting for Hope.’ But at the moment, I am working on a book that will actually look at hope as an emotion. Additionally, I have written a children’s book and a fiction novel,” she said.
“This year  I decided to skip the World Cups to stay home and get my professional life moving forward. In 2017, I’ll tilt the scales in favour of shooting and it’ll be game on!”