09:00 8 June 2022
Chloe Spiteri has overcome obstacles for years and now she wants to end her wrestling career on a high with a medal at the Commonwealth Games this summer.
The Barking Abbey alumnus, who lives in Collier Row, was named in England’s nine-man squad for the event in Birmingham, after narrowly missing out on bronze at the 2014 Games in Glasgow.
And the 10-time British champion hopes to inspire more women to follow in her footsteps and get into the sport.
“If I work I can medal at the Games and come out on top, that would be the dream,” she said.
“My ultimate goal is to get the governing body to increase participation. I want to start my own academy and train champions in this country.
“Nothing is impossible. I want to empower women in a men’s sport and be an ambassador and a role model for others.”
Spiteri got involved in wrestling by chance, but seized the opportunity with both hands and never looked back.
“When I was 17 I was playing football on a multi-sports day during the summer break in Mile End and was told I looked strong and should try wrestling,” she added.
“I was playing a wrestling coach‘s son. I had to travel to Lewisham and Haringey by bus, long journeys from Barking to Wood Green.
“In my freshman year I was a junior national champion and I won with my strength. There were a lot of skills to learn.”
After graduating with 10 GCSEs from grades A to C, Spiteri went on to study sports science and education at Brunel University.
“I had been struggling for a year when I started at Brunel University,” she said.
“I had to travel to Kensington, Shepherds Bush, Latymer Road, two or three times a week which meant more bus journeys. It was a lot of commitment to get to training.”
But she persevered and went to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“I had done athletics – 100m, javelin and shooting – from football, from rowing to regional team training in Docklands with the Royal Docks club, from training for London 2012 to a time,” she added.
“I had Channel 4 following me for a documentary and a rugby team saw me and knew I could tackle and I ended up playing for Richmond second and third, at a pretty high level.
“Glasgow 2014, I had a very tough draw. I won my first round, but then I had world university champions Canada in the semi-finals.
“Then I went into the bronze medal match against the 10-time African champion who is now an Olympic silver medalist. I did the full laps with her and scored points, so I showed my potential.”
Eight years later, Spiteri hopes the experience and continued education will help him achieve his ambition of a podium finish.
“For the past four or five years I’ve been doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I should get my purple belt soon. I won the England national championships in November,” she said.
“Wrestling is my specialty. I’m six feet tall, quite a small torso, but long arms and legs. The competition is freestyle wrestling. I’m more Greek style, upper body only, concentrating on keys and throws.
“Nine athletes have been selected and I’m the only one from the South. It’s based in Manchester and I have to make sacrifices, travel and stay in hotels.”
It’s been a tough journey to get to this point for Spiteri, emotionally and financially, and she’s now looking for help.
“The whole 15-year trip, I self-funded,” she said.
“In 2015, I went abroad 11 times, I went to competitions without a coach, I asked others to take care of me and make friends. I still have bills to pay.
“My mother was my main support. But Sue Knowles, my SENCO at Barking Abbey, was always there for me and believed in me and without her I don’t think I would have passed my GCSEs.
“Getting here was difficult. It meant showing others that nothing is impossible.
“From childhood seizures, Great Ormond Street care, school bullies calling me ‘disabled child’, low expectations from some teachers and professionals, and generally being told what I couldn’t do. I always fought back.
“I just can’t compete with other internationals who have access to the best coaches in the world, international competitions, travel costs, training camps, physiotherapy and more. They can train at full-time without obligation of employment.
Spiteri hopes his fundraiser will give him the opportunity to prepare and have an equal chance of winning a medal.
If you can help, donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-eng-wrestler-chloe-bring-bk-a-medal-cwg-2022.