How A Step-Dad’s Gift Helped Wales’s Hammer Ace Amber Simpson Beat The Bullies

By Owen Morgan

Father’s Day is probably the perfect occasion to tell the story of Welsh Commonwealth Games athlete Amber Simpson.

A pair of running shoes bought by her step-dad helped Simpson combat the bullying which plagued her school days and led to the launch of her career as an international hammer thrower.

Last Sunday, the Deeside AAC athlete celebrated her selection to represent Wales at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham by winning the hammer title at the Welsh Athletics Championships.

Simpson says there is a direct connection between her success as an athlete with the influence of her family and her step-dad in particular.

In a beautifully written brave, emotional and truly inspirational blog entitled Beating the Bully for her university in Memphis, Simpson described how the new trainers helped her emerge from the darkest period of her young life.

Tall and strong, the teenage Simpson was bullied for her appearance to the point where she dreaded going to school. Then came a visit to a sports shop with her step-dad.

Amber Simpson is interviewed after her success at the Welsh Athletics Championships.

In her blog, Simpson writes: “They were the nicest shoes I’d ever had in my life — my very first pair of actual running shoes. So, he bought the shoes, we drove out to a field, and I just started running.

“I ran and ran — and ran.

“Everything else in the world faded into the background, and I continued running like nothing else mattered.

“I was there until sunset, and it was absolutely beautiful.

“That was probably one of the happiest days of my life during one of my darkest periods.”

Simpson’s steps that evening were the first which helped lead her out of her bullying torment and into her development as an athlete.

Cross country running led her to join Deeside AAC where she was introduced to the throwing events.

Success was swift, but hard earned as Simpson developed into one of Europe’s best hammer throwers – partly thanks to endless hours watching You Tube videos with her step-dad to develop her technique.

“It’s crazy when I think about it now, but I learned hammer throwing through watching and studying YouTube videos with him,” reveals Simpson in her blog.

Amber Simpson celebrates her Welsh Championship victory in Cardiff. Pic: Owen Morgan

“It was something we had to learn together, but considering where I’m at right now, I’d say we didn’t do too bad.”

Simpson adds: “My step-dad — he pushed me every single day. He’s seen me at my worst and still managed to help push me through any adversity I faced.

“There were clearly times when I wanted to just give up, whether it was due to something physical in the sport or emotionally from the constant bullying. I can honestly say he saved me. And that’s no exaggeration.”

Simpson shared her story to help other youngsters – especially young girls – who are bullied.

Speaking after her success at the Welsh Athletics Championships last Sunday, the 23-year told Dai Sport it wasn’t easy to open up on the Memphis University Tigers’ Behind the Stripes website.

But it was something she felt she had to do. Simpson said: “That blog in general was very difficult for me to talk about. I had to make myself uncomfortable to talk about it.

“So many people go through bullying. I want younger women, especially females in sports like the one that I participate in, to understand it’s not okay, but you’ve got to keep pushing through it and it pays off so massively.

“I couldn’t imagine where I’d be without my sport today, because it’s opened so many doors for me. It was horrible going through it, but it made me so much stronger.

“I’m not happy to have had to go through it, but it’s part of my journey and it helped me to where I am now.

“It’s a big thing for any girl growing up. You’re conscious about the shape or size of yourself. My confidence did grow a lot more when I went out to America.

“The thing is your body is so special, it’s able to make me do something that not a lot of girls can do.

“I think the main focus is that you can’t look at your body and hate it. You’ve got to look at it and accept it and understand that it’s a gift to you and it’s able to put you on a journey where you can excel for yourself.”

Amber Simpson looking to land the Welsh hammer record this summer. Pic: Graham Glenndinning

 

Simpson has certainly excelled, especially since taking the giant step of leaving her family behind and going to study and compete in Memphis.

Since her move stateside, Simpson has improved her personal best from 61.03m in 2019 to the 65.85m she threw in Memphis in April – the second longest throw by a Welsh woman ever behind Carys Parry’s 66.80.

Moving to America to live, study and compete is a huge gamble for any young athlete, but Simpson is delighted she took the step.

“It’s a risky decision for anyone,” she says. “You’re literally going halfway across the world to meet someone that you’ve been emailing, and you hope that it works out for you.

“But I’ve met some amazing people out there and the support structure is absolutely phenomenal.”

This year alone, Simpson has exceeded the Welsh Commonwealth Games nomination standard of 62m half a dozen times – the latest coming at a meeting in Germany earlier this month.

That kind of consistency ensured her a place on the athletics squad for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games when it was announced by Team Wales earlier this month.

Simpson couldn’t be happier to be heading for Birmingham. “It’s such an honour to be going especially to be representing Wales too. I have such a love for the country, I’m very proud to be Welsh.

“Also, it’s the biggest games I’ve ever been to, the biggest competition I’ve ever been to. It’s preparing me for the future.

“This is my first one, I’m happy to go there for the experience and I want to do well too. I’m very, very excited and I’m very, very proud.”

Will she think about those who bullied her when she pulls on the Welsh vest at the Commonwealth Games?

Simpson’s answer is emphatic: “No, I don’t think about them anymore, I spent too much of my time thinking about them when I was going through it. Now I just enjoy the moment that I’m in rather than think about anyone else.”

With Commonwealth Games selection and a second consecutive Welsh senior hammer title in the bag, what’s Simpson’s next ambition?

“I’m aiming to hit the Welsh record this season,” she says. “Honestly, growing up I looked up to Carys Parry. She was an amazing thrower and I was always star struck by her whenever I saw her.

“So that’s my next aim, I would love to have a shot at doing that and then obviously getting to the final at the Commonwealths. You never know what could happen on the day.”

Simpson also says she wants to make her family proud.

In her blog she says: “My main goal through all of this has always been about making my parents proud. I don’t really talk about it, but it means the world to me to keep driving and working because my parents gave up a lot for me to do well in my sport.

“Even when money was tight, they didn’t give up pushing and providing me with everything I needed. So, the least I can do is keep giving it my all.”

Having watched her compete and read her blog, it’s probably fair to assume the ambition to make her family proud has already been well and truly achieved.

You can read Amber Simpson’s Beating the Bully blog here: https://behindthestripes.gotigersgo.com/amber-simpson-track-and-field-beating-the-bully/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.