By Kate Moore

AN INSPIRATIONAL armless athlete has found her ‘purpose’ and confidence after riding motorbikes as a form of therapy

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Videographer / director: Sam Miles, Giacomo Brunelli
Producer: Kate Moore, Danny Baggott, Kim Nguyen
Editor: Sonia Estal


Nadia Lauricella, 26, from Sicily, has phocomelia syndrome.

The rare condition causes malformations of the limbs, resulting in the absence or extreme shortening of bones at birth.

Nadia was born without arms, missing part of her leg, and with a curved spine.

She was “never bullied at school” but did encounter prejudice from strangers.

Nadia told Barcroft TV: “If I wanted to do sports, they’d say ‘how are you going to do that?’, ‘You can’t.’”

“All those ‘no's’ stay with you, they make you think that you really can’t.”

But Nadia was determined not to let her condition stop her from living her life to the fullest.

Four years ago, she decided that she wanted to learn how to walk, so had a prosthetic made for herself.

Nadia explained that, “when I put on my prosthetics, I felt more freedom, I could walk on my own without anyone having to carry me or help me.”

Her fitness journey started after her physiotherapist advised her to go to the gym.

However, her initial experience of training was negative, with companies refusing to work with her.  

“The first time I went to the gym I was really ashamed because when you feel the weight of all those ‘no's’ on your back, you really start thinking you can’t do things," Nadia said. 

“I would often hear myself saying ‘no, I can’t do that.’”

Eventually Nadia found the current gym she trains at, who are now like a “wonderful family”.

Nadia has been attending regular sessions with her coach Gianluca, pushing herself with strength work.

Gianluca said: “Thanks to her tenacity, her will to live, her desire to grow, she reached outstanding results." 

And recently, Nadia also experienced one of her therapeutic motorbike rides. 

She discovered the benefits of motorbike therapy for disabled people after watching a YouTube video showing riders with a range of abilities.

Nadia was keen to try it herself, and built up a relationship with 'Motor Life', an organisation which promotes riding motorbikes as a form of therapy.

“Motorcycle therapy gave me a purpose and I really feel like I’m part of something important”, Nadia said. 

 “I feel free, but also sheer terror. 

“You can’t feel your legs, but at the same time it’s exhilarating.”

Nadia is now working with hospitals to bring motorbike therapy to other disabled children.

Nadia has shown how she adapts everyday tasks to live independently with her condition, such as applying makeup with her feet.

“Often when people think about disability, they think of someone who doesn’t look after themselves, who gives up”, Nadia said.

“I would like to debunk this belief.

“I look after myself, love make up and dress well.”

She has confidence now, despite the odds being stacked against her - but it hasn’t always been like that.

In the past Nadia would only post photographs of her face on social media, as she felt “ashamed” of her disability.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be accepted," she said. 

“I wouldn’t show my full body, I wasn’t coping very well with it.

“But then I realised there are worse things to be ashamed of, and that this is me.”

She began to upload images showing her condition and received a huge amount of support on her Instagram page.

“I’ve never felt like I was extraordinary, but I realise that this is what it might look like for other people.

“I really hope it can teach other people not to judge by appearances, and never give up.”

Nadia is now looking ahead and has high hopes for the future. 

“My aspiration for the future is [that] I would like to find a job," she said. 

“Get more and more independent.

 “And maybe, who knows, maybe even find a partner."