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UEL graduate and 7/7 survivor Martine Wright MBE says sport saved her life

Sitting volleyball star’s new autobiography discusses how catastrophic changes can have positive outcomes

After losing most of both her legs in the worst terrorist attack in British history, University of East London (UEL) graduate and honorary doctorate holder Martine Wright MBE could have sunk into despair. Instead, she reshaped her life through sport, and has become an inspiring example of the power of believing in oneself.

Martine’s story of how catastrophic life changes can have positive outcomes is portrayed in her autobiography Unbroken: My story of survival from 7/7 Bombings to Paralympic success, which was recently published.

Martine, 44, lost both her legs above the knee when she was caught up in the explosion at Aldgate station during the 7/7 bombings in London. But she later took up sitting volleyball, soaring to the sport’s greatest heights when she represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Paralympics.

She completed her studies at UEL in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Psychosocial Studies and Communication Studies. In recognition of the inspirational way she turned her life around after the bomb attack, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science in 2013. Martine says she is “proud to say that I’m a graduate of UEL”.

Looking back on being awarded her honorary doctorate, Martine said she was overjoyed with how her alma mater paid tribute to her awe-inspiring story.

“The honorary doctorate was amazing,” she said. “It was one of those things that if you said to me 12 years ago that you would have an honorary doctorate from your university, I would have thought you were mad. 

“It was a brilliant day - a very proud moment.”

Martine is also full of praise for UEL’s support of the GB women’s sitting volleyball team, who train regularly at SportsDock.

She says, “UEL have partnered with the GB sitting volleyball team and they’ve really supported us, especially after 2012.

“The facility [SportsDock] wasn’t built when I attended university but I do come here a lot now with the Great Britain sitting volleyball team and the facilities are out of this world. 

“It’s brilliant and we’re lucky that UEL supports us a GB team.”

Martine was recognised in 2012 with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award, which is given for “outstanding achievement in the face of adversity”.

Her advice to UEL students who may be going through difficulties during their studies?

“We all go through tough times, big times and small times, but the most important thing personally for me is, number one, the love and support around you," she says. 

“Take advantage of that, whether it’s in the form of friends at university or to do with your family at home or friends at home then take advantage of that and let people help.

“The other thing is belief. I truly believe that anything is possible as long as you believe. If you keep that belief you can get through those tough days and good thing lie ahead.”