Paralympic medal winner who inspired all who knew her


KAREN CROMIE: KAREN CROMIE, who has died aged 31, was a role model for the disabled. As a paralympic rower she represented first Britain then Ireland. While a student at Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh, an accident left her confined to a wheelchair. She returned to university and completed her studies in occupational therapy.

Basketball was the first disabled sport in which she made her mark. She won silver with the British team in the Wheelchair Basketball World Cups of 2005 and 2006. However, prior to being confined to a wheelchair, she had been a rower so she decided her talents were more suited to adaptive rowing.

So in 2006 she took it up – and finished sixth in the world championships. In 2008 she won silver in the mixed double sculls at the Beijing Paralympics.

That year she transferred to representing Ireland. She brought skill and experience to the Irish squad. In 2010 she won two silver medals at the International adaptive Regatta in Italy. On the day before her death she was named on the Irish panel for the 2012 Paralympics. It was expected she would have little difficulty in achieving the qualifying time.

She was a full-time athlete committed to a rigorous training regime.

Kevin O’Neill, director of Disability Sports Northern Ireland, said she encouraged younger disabled athletes. “Young disabled people are socialised to believe that they can’t take part in sport. Karen and some others sent the message that people can be disabled, and still lead full and active lives,” he said.

Family friend and Ulster Unionist councillor Raymond Farrell called her “an encourager” because older disabled people took inspiration from what she had been able to achieve.

Cromie did not allow her wheelchair to restrict her. She travelled widely, including a safari in Kenya.

She had an eye for fashion. At the time of her death she was studying part-time at Queen’s University, Belfast, for a Master of Science in Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

She is survived by her parents Alex and Joy, her sister Lynn,brother Michael and her niece and nephew.

Karen Cromie: born September 24th, 1979; died January 28th, 2011