Sawtry star Lauren Steadman determnined to succeed at the Paralympics to repay those who have helped on her sporting journey

Lauren Steadman is hot favourite to strike gold at the Paralympics. Picture: DAVID PEARCE

Lauren Steadman is hot favourite to strike gold at the Paralympics. Picture: DAVID PEARCE - Credit: David Pearce

Lauren Steadman has medals on the mind as the Paralympic Games draw ever closer.

But the reigning European and World champion is quick to insist that claiming gold in Rio won’t be as easy as the statistics perhaps suggest.

The 23-year-old – who competed as a swimmer in Beijing in 2008 and at London four years later – is widely tipped to bring home the gold medal as para-triathlon makes it’s Games debut this summer.

And, as the excitement continues to bubble, Steadman insists she is determined to succeed in the Women’s PT 4 category to thank those who have helped her on her journey to Rio.

“I’m definitely excited,” she said. “It was really good to get the automatic selection so early on in the season, and it’s just a case now of nailing the small things in the month leading up to Rio.

“The Paralympics for me have changed over the course of the three Games. I first went when I was 15 so it was very exciting, but a bit daunting, and then going into London I was a bit more experienced.

“Going into Rio, my priorities have changed because I’m going in as world number one, so it’s a case of trying to stay ahead of the rest of the world to bring home that medal.

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“Paratriathlon makes its debut at Rio, and if all goes well and we have a successful Team GB, it definitely looks good for the future of the sport.

“I’d like to think that I have moved the standard of the GB women forward. The rest of the world sees me as favourite because I have such a lead at the moment, but I’m aware that every other girl around the world is trying to beat me so I’m expecting quite tough competition in Rio.

“A lot of people have invested their time and effort in me so it’s not just me racing as the athlete.

“It would be fantastic to bring home that gold medal, especially a Paralympic medal, for the country, and I’m doing it just as much for everyone else who has belief in me as much as myself.”

While Steadman prepares to pull on the red, white and blue of Great Britain in Brazil in September, another colour she frequently adorns is the purple of Portsmouth University.

More than 60 per cent of gold medallists since 1992 have participated in British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) events, with 56 members of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics competing for Great Britain at the World University Games.

And for Steadman, who completed a psychology undergraduate degree before starting her business masters, the guidance she received from her university and BUCS was pivotal in getting her to where she is today.

“I represented Portsmouth not at triathlon, but in cross-country and I did a bit of swimming for them as well,” added Steadman, who was born without a lower right arm.

“I think BUCS has a fantastic atmosphere and it’s great to see all the students come together from all over the country to race.

“I definitely think competing at university has helped me get to the level I am racing at now. Racing at university level is just as daunting as racing for your country.

“I’m always proud to represent Portsmouth and I believe everyone else is when they represent their university.”

BUCS is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, organising leagues and competitions for more than 150 institutions across 52 different sports.

Supported by Deloitte, BUCS offers programmes to athletes from a grass roots level through to Commonwealth and Olympic Games hopefuls