Oliva Breen

Believes Past Setbacks Have Made Her Stronger As She Bids To Qualify For The Paris Olympic Games.

  • Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2022

  • Gold medal winner for T37/38 100m at the 2022 Commonwealth Games

  • Gold medal winner for T38 long jump at the World Para Championships in 2017

  • Gold medal winner for T38 long hump at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Olivia Breen’s story is truly inspiring, packed full of charisma and plenty of natural talent. It’s not been the easiest road for the Welsh athlete, but she insists she can only look forward to what promises to be an exciting few months ahead, and that any setbacks have just made her stronger both physically and mentally.

2016 was a key turning point for Breen, who battled through the setbacks of the Rio Olympics to come back stronger. And now she looks to continue to build towards the World Championships in Paris in July before the Olympic Games next year.

The whole of Wales watched Olivia claim her gold medal at the Commonwealth Games over the summer, where she pipped her long-time adversary, Sophie Hahn, to win the T38 100m sprint in what was an incredible performance.

It’s easy to grow accustomed to her success after an impressive few years for the athlete that have included taking home an Olympic Bronze medal at Tokyo and plenty of medals at both the World and European Championships.

But the constant battle and pressure of being involved in professional sport almost saw her walk away from athletics, the sport she has loved since she was five, a few years ago after questioning herself during the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The Welsh athlete is very reflective on that difficult period of her life. She believes the process and the growth it took to overcome those challenging times helped her on her way to win a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 and gold in the 2022 Commonwealth games.

“Rio (2016) didn’t go to plan at all. It was a very tough time for me mentally. It was a very hard games for me after the positivity I had in 2012. I did think about walking away,” said Breen.

“Thankfully I had some time where I was able to sit back and reflect on things and I realised there were plenty of things still to come.

“I think growing up with a disability, having lots of knockbacks and having to kind of prove people wrong along the way has taught me a lot and pushed me to my achievements. After 2016, I was able to get back into a good space and I became World Champion the year after, and never looked back.

“I went on into the Commonwealth Games 2018 and the World Championships and even though I struggled with a knee injury, I knew I was back. I was feeling really positive, and I just switched my attention to Tokyo.

“I think you need to have aims in your mind, sport can be really hard. Everyone has different life experiences but when sport goes wrong it can affect your whole self, it can take over your life.”

Having been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of two, Olivia speaks glowingly about the importance her family has played in her life.

She grew up with her twin, Dan, and her younger brother, Jack. Her Parents were always sporty and encouraged their three children to get out and enjoy as much sport as they could.

Olivia remembers being fixated with her twin brother from an early age and the pair have been inseparable ever since – him introducing her when she couldn’t hear due to being deaf, and her copying his every move – even if it terrified her parents. Whether it was rugby or other high-octane sports, Livvy ran head-on into everything her brother did.

“I didn’t see my disability as a barrier at all, my parents were always encouraging me and my brothers into sport. They treated us equally, so I didn’t see any difference.

“I would encourage everyone to try all sports. You never know what will be for you.

Winning an Olympic medal is an incredible honour and a huge achievement following a life of dedication to your sport. It was no different for Breen, whose bronze medal in the long jump event represented years of hard work.

But to win what is the most prestigious event in sport without her supportive family and friends present during Covid left a sour taste in Breen’s mouth.

This then, made a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham even more of an achievement for Breen, who was at last surrounded by friends and family to celebrate, reflect and enjoy her success.

“The Commonwealth Games was a massive success, a home games and doing it for Wales, it was a huge honour. But there’s always something coming year after year, you just want to keep getting better, faster and stronger and jump further,” said Breen, who competed under the flag of Wales in Birmingham 2022.

“My mum’s Welsh and I spent all my school holidays in Wales. I have a big soft spot for Wales. The Welsh teams are just so lovely, and I love the UWIC track too. Sometimes, I wish there was a long jump coach that lived in Wales, because the people are so nice.

“Obviously having family and friends in Birmingham was emotional. I didn’t have any family at Tokyo to see me get my first individual medal, which was quite hard. But Birmingham capped it off perfectly and competing for Wales as well, it was incredible.”

Olivia Winning Welsh Female Athlete of the Year