Meet Claire Connon, a charming, sunny, stubbornly confident English wheelchair racer who, at the age of 33, has triumphantly conquered the twin nightmares of two critically disabling conditions. “Forever a Champion” is a compelling short film which shows us how Claire has overcome both a digestive disorder that requires total intravenous feeding and a mobility impairment that requires that she use a wheelchair.
Her attitude is best characterized by her answer to the often-asked question: “What’s wrong with you?” Her reply: “I am disabled. Not wrong.”
Claire’s conditions were caused by a spinal cord injury that happened 15 years ago, resulting in a diagnosis of “C3 spastic paraplegia.” As Claire worked her way toward finding treatments that would help her recover, she discovered wheelchair racing provided the kind of competition and challenge that she loved.
The film ends with her cheerful expectation that she will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, because of the global pandemic she reports “It was just not possible to get classified or qualified in time.”
Characteristically unstoppable, Claire has now switched to competitive swimming, “I am already ranked in the Top 10 in the world in my classification, and have just broken two regional records.” She is now aiming for the Paris Paralympics in 2024.
Claire is also completing her thesis on lava-flow mapping to earn her Master’s degree in Geography from King’s College London.
“Forever a Champion” effectively captures Claire’s style and spirit: “If we avoid doing anything because something might happen–we’d never get out of bed,” she says. “You gotta go for it. There’s no other option. Really.”
The award-winning film, was produced, directed, shot and edited by Carmen Vincent while she was studying documentary filmmaking on a scholarship to Anglia Ruskin University in England. It has appeared in many festivals. Carmen is currently at work on a “Teacher of Patience,” about a Northwest Indiana family’s efforts to educate their community about dealing with disability and Down’s Syndrome.