Photographer Nyla Sammons created a portrait series of ten Tough Women in Sport and Adventure, telling the stories of strong women who have gone beyond the ordinary to push boundaries and break world records. She was motivated to begin the portrait series after photographing Kiko Matthews, who in 2018 broke the world record for being the fastest woman to row the Atlantic solo.
Inspired by Kiko’s achievements, Nyla wanted to celebrate Kiko’s success and determination, along with nine other incredible women like her and this was the birth of Tough Women in Sport and Adventure. Nyla also wanted to inspire a new wave of adventures and those that wanted to achieve their goals and dreams. Two photos were taken of the tough women, one in a studio environment and the other taken on location, to capture the individual story of each women.
Kiko is a former teacher who in 2009 developed Cushings disease. Having decided to row the Atlantic solo in order to raise funds for Kings College Hospital she found a tumour on her brain whilst training. With surgery successfully completed, she got straight back to her preparations and in 2018 successfully broke the record becoming the fastest person to solo row the Atlantic in just 49 days. In the process she raised over £115k.
Since then she has completed a 250km desert ultramarathon and a 7000km cycle of the UK’s coast line including 60 beach cleans with schools and communities along the way.
Pip found herself in a relationship with the flesh-eating parasite Leishmaniasis after a world-first, 2.5 month, paddling expedition through the dense Amazon jungle. The journalist, presenter, and poet now raises awareness of this neglected tropical disease – the second biggest parasitic killer after malaria. Pip has also cycled halfway around the world (16,000km from Malaysia to London) and presented a six-part series on the impact of deforestation.
Laura aka ‘Biceps’ is hugely passionate about strength training, especially for women, and celebrates its mental and physical benefits, whatever your ability. She is an advocate of putting in the graft to achieve your goals, nothing worth having comes easy and nothing looks as good as strong feels. She coaches thousands of clients per year through their first experience of functional weight lifting and loves seeing how it opens their eyes to transferring these skills into everyday life.
She is a personal trainer, author of ‘Lift Yourself’ and novice strongwoman competitor, attempting to be a marathon runner and is the Head Trainer at boutique studio gym Ministry of Sound Fitness. She trains at some of London’s top S&C and modified strongman gyms and you will usually find her throwing atlas stones around or talking about the benefits of getting strong.
Having attained a BA in Architectural Technology and worked within the field for a year, Ruqsana soon realised that her passion lay in the sports arena. Taking up Thai Boxing/kickboxing at the age of 18 she trained in secret whilst at university for fear of people not approving of her participation in such a demanding and male dominated sport whilst coming from a traditional Muslim Bangladeshi background.
She knew she would have to break down stereotypes and cultural boundaries in order to train and accomplish her goal of becoming a national champion.
In 2009 she was selected for the GB team where she acquired a bronze medal in the world championships, in 2010 she became the British atom weight champion and in 2011 won the European gold medal from Latvia before securing a bronze medal in 2012.
From wheel chair bound to world class athlete, Beth French stretches the horizons of her own possibilities, tackling seemingly impossible feats of endurance and adventure.
Beth suffered with ME from the age of 10 and by 17, she was in a wheelchair. Overcoming debilitation, she forged a path to ultimate health her own way. Beth is the first woman to swim the notorious Kaiwi Channel of Bones in Hawaii (twice,) and the first person ever to swim from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly. Last year, she was named as one of the World Open Water Swimming Association’s top 50 adventurous female swimmers.
Beth is the subject of the film, Against the Tides, that documents her journey through treacherous waters, making heart rending decisions that test what toughness is at the very core.
Emma is a woman who’s had a passion for sport from a young age, she sort to take on sporting challenges for charities after multiple family members died from cancer. Across the last 4 years she has completed an Indoor Iron Man, 4 marathons, 10 half marathons and most notably 24hrs of Burpees. During the feat completed in 2015 she completed 7015 burpees and became the youngest person to ever take on the challenge.
On a daily basis she continues to coach runners on track as part of Track Life LDN, educate as a running footwear buyer; and train in running and CrossFit to seek new challenges to keep proving women what they can do.
To view all of the Tough Women portraits visit Nyla Sammon’s website: https://www.nylasammons.com/toughwomen
Article first published on The Capturist (21.02.21)