Scottish Disability Sport is saddened to hear of the passing of the Association’s first National Development Officer and Paralympic Wheelchair Racer, Karen Lewis Archer on Wednesday 14th December aged 42. Karen was a pioneer and role model who pushed the boundaries and led the way for other disabled people to compete and work in sport.
Karen was born in Carluke in South Lanarkshire and was encouraged to be active from an early age. She attended Carluke High School and very quickly it was identified that she had an aptitude for sport. Karen, whose mother was a swimming coach at Clyde Valley Beavers encourage her to join the club. As a junior swimmer, Karen excelled as a member of the Scottish junior swim team and quickly became an accomplished swimmer headed for a promising international career before fate intervened and instead pushed her towards the athletics track.
In 1989 she was selected to swim at the World Youth Games in Miami where she won a gold medal in the 50m breaststroke. While there, the track relay team was looking for someone to fill in and turned to Karen. Not only did Karen rise to the challenge but she won a second gold medal in the relay.
On her return to Scotland she promptly joined Red Star Athletic Club in Glasgow where she met her coach Ian Mirfin and in her words “it all spiralled from there.”
She was selected for the Great Britain team to compete at the World Championships in Birmingham in winning T52 gold in the 400m, silver in the 800m and bronze in the 1500m.
She was selected for both the Sydney and Athens Summer Paralympic Games but just prior to Sydney she developed serious arm and wrist problems. She was offered the option of an operation or racing with a strapped and painful wrist. Not wanting to miss out on the Paralympic dream, she chose the latter. Despite her injury she still managed fourth place finishes in both the 100m and 400m. In Athens she again missed out on the medals in the 200m and 400m.
In 2000, Karen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Leisure Management and in 2007 gained a Master of Science in Sports Management from Northumbria University.
As Scottish Disability Sports National Development Officer, she was a well known and respected colleague with a passion for inclusion. She worked hard to support the flourishing Branch infrastructure across Scotland and the established national events programme. Karen was most recently employed as Sport Development Officer with North Tyneside Council, a post she had held since 2004.
In 2003 Karen married Wayne, who she met through mutual friends and in 2005 their son Dylan was born followed by a daughter, Felicity in 2014.
Karen was also an inspirational speaker and through her brain child programme, ‘Gold Rush’, a programme of inspirational workshops and seminars which she delivered to schools, community groups and businesses drawing on her experiences as a world-class athlete. Karen had also written her first book for children featuring a young and equally plucky disabled heroine called Kellie Khan-do.
As well as being arguably Scotland’s greatest ever female wheelchair track athlete, Karen was also a role model and champion for disabled people. She had a determination and spirit to achieve in everything that she did along with a wicked sense of humour that was infectious. She will be sadly missed.
Karen’s sporting achievements
1989 Joined Red Star Athletics Club.
1989 World Youth Games 50m gold Breaststroke.
1997 1st International GB selection, Irish National Championships.
1998 IPC World Championships T52 400m gold, 800m silver & 1500m bronze.
2000 Summer Paralympic Games 4th in the T52 100m & 400m.
2001 IPC European Championship T52100m gold, 200m gold & 400m silver.
2002 IPC World Championship T52 200m bronze.
2003 IPC European Championships T52 400m gold, 100m silver & 200m silver
2004 Summer Paralympic Games 7th and 9th in the T52 200m & 400m.