Former Millfield horse rider turned swimmer Suzanna Hext is competing in her first Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Thirty-two year old Suzanna, from Cornwall, suffered a life changing riding accident in 2012 which left her paralysed from the waist down. Doctors told her she would never ride again. But Suzanna’s grit and determination saw her back in the saddle just two years after her accident and she was longlisted to compete in the dressage team for the Rio 2016 Paralympics and went on to become Triple European Para Dressage Gold Medallist in 2017.
In 2019, Suzanna swapped the saddle for the swimming pool and achieved an amazing two medals (freestyle silver and bronze) at her debut World Para Swimming Championships in London. Spurred on by her success, Suzanna set the Team GB Paralympic swimming team in her sights.
During lockdown, she moved in with her parents in Cornwall, and continued to train in the sea. Heading back to her home in Cirencester in June, she was supported by friend and iconic rider AP McCoy who offered her their pool to train in.
Suzanna said, ‘‘Having been lucky enough to gain a scholarship for riding at Millfield, it definitely held me in good stead in every walk of life, whether that be sport, career wise and having the in-built sheer strength of character to overcome any obstacles and challenges that have come my way. Millfield teaches you to stand on your own two feet, to be independent and to embrace life and every opportunity that comes your way. My Millfield experience has certainly helped me to have the ability to bounce back after my life changing accident.”
Suzanna attended Millfield between 2005-2007, and was an accomplished and committed rider, training under the watchful eye of Millfield’s Director of Equestrian, Danny Anholt.
Whilst at school she spent summers and a gap year working with international event riders before being selected onto the British Young Rider long-list in 2008. She attended Royal Agricultural University achieving a first-class honours degree in Equine Science. At the time of her accident, which led to numerous operations and two years in and out of hospital, she had been competing at two-star level (now CCI***) eventing.
Suzanna and Pammy Hutton’s horse Abira were long-listed for the Rio Paralympics in 2016 and then in 2017 she was selected for the European Para Dressage Championships in Gothenburg, coming away as Triple European Gold medallist (Individual, team and Freestyle).
Suzanna became a blogger for Equestrian magazine, Horse and Hound and was honoured with the prestigious Millfield OM of the Year award for her unwavering resilience and inspiring story.
Millfield Chief Coach Danny Anholt coached Suzanna during her time at Millfield, he says, “From the start it was clear that Suzanna would always give her all to any challenge that was presented to her. She possessed a rare combination of absolute determination and cheerful acceptance. Win or lose, Suzanna would always come out with a smile and seek the next step to progress. I’ve seen this attitude carry her through challenges that would have made many people give up, reinventing herself to accommodate every hurdle and seeking out the next goal in her life. She has always expressed a strong sense of gratitude, which is clearly an attribute that enables her to continually succeed, while clearly relishing the process.”
Suzanna will be competing in 200m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 20 point relay, 100m breaststroke and 50m backstroke.
An inspiring 12 former Millfield students competed at the Toyko 2020 Olympic Games, winning three medals during the competition. Team GB swimming star, James Guy, won two gold medals in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and 4 x 100m mixed medley relay and a silver medal in the men’s 4 x 100m medley.
The school is set to see many more talented sports students follow the Olympic pathway and compete in Paris 2024.