When Paralympian multiple gold medallist Sophie Pascoe was 2, her life changed in an instant.

While playing at the end of her long driveway in a rural area of Christchurch, she was run over by a ride-on lawnmower - driven by her dad.

She was rushed to hospital and five hours later had her left leg amputated below the knee, with severe scarring on the back of her right.

But 17 years on, New Zealand's most decorated Olympian reckons it was the best thing that ever happened to her.


"I never look back on what happened," Pascoe said. "My accident has made me who I am today."

Pascoe won three gold and three silver medals in London, adding to the three gold and one silver she won as a 15-year old in Beijing.

Her father, Gary, said the accident was something he did not like to talk about, but acknowledged that his daughter had gone on to reach new heights as a result.

"I'd rather just leave it in the past ... but other doors have opened and [she's] done very well at it."

Mr Pascoe, wife Jo, Sophie's grandmother Yvonne Goodman and an aunt were all in London to watch their girl.

"It was great to be there and watch her achieve. I can't describe it - it's just amazing. We're more than proud," Mr Pascoe said last night.

Pascoe described her Olympic schedule as so hectic that she had little time with her parents.

"The only time I really got to see them was after winning a medal ... But I was able to appreciate it when I saw them watching me on the podium. That was a very special moment."

Pascoe started swimming when she was 7.

"I wasn't allowed to play any other sports, but swimming is such a soft sport so it's okay. As I got older I couldn't really try anything else at the risk of injuring my arm, because then I wouldn't be able to swim."

Since leaving school and turning professional she has averaged 26 hours a week in the pool - two hours in the morning and two at night.

"Swimming is a fulltime job for me, I don't have time to have a job on the outside of what I already do - but I love what I do, and it's a great lifestyle."

She is looking forward to a bit of a break, before going back to training.

"I haven't finished in the water yet. You'll be seeing me in another four years."

- nzherald.co.nz