18th May 2022
STEPHEN MORRIS CALLS TIME ON ELITE ATHLETICS CAREER
Two-time Paralympian Stephen Morris has called time on his elite running career after well over a decade of running at the high-end of the sport. Before hanging up his spikes from competitive racing, we caught up with Stephen as he reflected on his athletics career, and his plans for the future.
Debuts don’t come much bigger than the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, but at just 23 years-old, Stephen Morris stepped out onto the hallowed track inside the Olympic Stadium in front of 80,000 people, pulling on a British vest for the first time.
Morris, who finished sixth in the T20 1500m on the 4th of September 2012, unsurprisingly ranks the experience as the highlight of his athletics career.
“Making my first GB vest for the Paralympics in 2012 in front of 80,000 people, it was the perfect debut – I will never forget that experience. I was so happy and proud and excited.
“Looking back to 2009, I was really looking to Rio in 2016. 2011 I took a year off for my studies but then I worked really hard in training for a year and my training paid off and I got to London 2012. After that I became an elite athlete full-time and I left my studies and put them on hold until I retired, so that is what I’ll do now.”
For Morris, like for many athletes, 2012 changed the complexion of his life. The Welsh athlete, who has dyspraxia and autism, notes how during his first international call-up, he found it quite an isolating experience as he entered this new and exciting environment for the first time. However, from that moment, he recognises that he grew as a person both on and off the track.
Reflecting upon whether the experience did change things, he said, “Not just for the competing part, but my life in general. I learned about lifestyle, eating healthy, and it gave me the confidence to talk to people. It helped my disability quite a lot. Having dyspraxia and autism, I came out of my shell.
“It was a crazy environment. I had never been involved in anything like that [London 2012]. I didn’t know what to expect. At the first meeting I was a bit quiet. The GB athletes all knew each other from the Champs and camps, so I was outside the box, I didn’t bond with the team during the Paralympic process in 2012. But in Rio I was chattier. I knew the team and the staff well.”
By Rio, Morris had established himself as a regular on British teams, racing in world and European finals during his career, with a handful of fourth places on his CV.
Although the Cardiff athlete is proud of his memories on the track, it is clear to hear in his voice that ‘coming out of his shell’ was a huge moment in his life, all thanks to sport, and he now seeks to encourage anyone else in a similar circumstance to get involved.
“You have to find the right sport which is suited for all abilities. Doesn’t matter if you are elite or a beginner, everyone can take part in running. It is a community. It helps your mental health; it gives you confidence.”
“I do public speaking for the Autism Society; talk about barriers, fears and always sticking to things, don’t quit. Like I did with my athletics, I stuck at it, and I earned seven GB vests during that time.”
The next chapter of Stephen’s life may well be dedicated to helping others as he continues to grow his work as a personal trainer.
“I do my personal training. Not just for athletes but for everyone. I want to help their health, their lifestyle, their mental health. The positive sides are being fit and healthy, not just looking good on the beach, but giving them the confidence and improve their mental health. It is something we need right now.”
On a final note, as he wraps up his farewell to his elite running career, he had time to recognise the many people who have supported him throughout his career.
“I want to thank, Disability Sport Wales; Anthony Hughes and Nathan Stephens who have supported me over the years; James Thie who got me five GB vests; my old coach Chris Moss who got me my first GB vest; the Sport Wales staff – the physios, the S&C and nutrition guys; all the staff at British Athletics who have supported me during my elite running years; and finally, also my parents for supporting me and making my dreams possible and believing in me throughout my career. I want to thank everyone for helping me because it has allowed me to become a better person.”
Keep It Smooth, Stephen.