Claire Harvey is a remarkable person who has led an equally remarkable life. She had a passion for sport from an early age – athletics and hockey, in particular – but when she was 14 she discovered a love for rugby. She excelled in the sport and played for Medway RFC, the Saracens and later Waterloo RFC. At Liverpool University she studied Psychology and Sociology. This laid the foundations of a career that has seen her accept Operations Management and Equality & Diversity roles in government bodies, and led to her current position of Head of Corporate Responsibility at the Financial Services Authority.
Sport had always been an important and intrinsic part of Claire’s life until a car crashed into her bicycle in February 2008 leaving her completely paralysed in one leg, without peripheral vision and a loss of several nerve functions. The accident did not however deter her passion and drive. After the long process of physio and rehabilitation that followed the accident, she looked for something to fill the void that the absence of rugby had left in her life. That is when she discovered sitting volleyball. Such is her drive and determination that within two years she had been selected for the national Sitting Volleyball team and hopes to represent Great Britain in this year’s 2012 Paralympics.
It would be understandable, with the rigorous training and effort required to be an athlete at the top of their game, if Claire solely focused on that purpose, but she finds time to be a Diversity Role Model for the organisation which tackles homophobia and transphobia in schools by putting the role models in front of young people to talk about acceptance and respect for diversity. She has also been the operations manager for the GB Deaf Women’s Football Team and is one of the ambassadors (alongside other athletes Blake Skjellerup, Ben Cohen & John Amaechi) at this year’s Pride House on Clapham Common.
This year’s LGBT History Month launched with a Queer Question Time, which debated attitudes to, and the relevance of, the LGBT community in sport. Claire Harvey was one of the panellists at that event and her opinions were insightful, thought provoking and delivered with a much welcomed sense of humour. I find her passion, enthusiasm and determination an inspiration. With LGBT History Month’s focus on sport this year, I cannot think of a more befitting hero who actively champions equality and diversity in an often homophobic environment.