Last Friday night, Joanna Rowsell became the first European to win a gold medal in track cycling at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The 25 year old, who hails from Carshalton, South London, saw off competition from Australian rival Annette Edmondson, winning by 3.8 seconds
Rowsell was diagnosed with Alopecia at the age of 10, yet she has always maintained she doesn’t wish to let the condition define her. Her composure and light-hearted approach towards the hair loss condition, which can cause total hair loss, endears her to fans, and she’s been heard joking that wearing a wig feels as normal to her as using a hairbrush in the morning once did.
After winning the world title in Colombia in March 2014, Joanna’s confidence has meant the sky is the limit for the young athlete, who is taking the track-cycling world by storm. Rowsell commented, “It has been an amazing year. This was the one I really wanted. When I first started, a lot of people doubted me, but I have always wanted to prove them wrong and to prove it to myself.” She set a Games record with her personal best time of three minutes, 29.38 seconds when qualifying.
As a schoolgirl, Rowsell auditioned for British Cycling’s ‘talent-spotting’ programme, putting her competitive nature to good use. She isn’t the only high-profile star to be affected by Alopecia Areata celebrities including Gail Porter, Neve Campbell and Matt Lucas have all experienced the condition. It was Joanna’s decision not to wear a wig whilst accepting her gold medal that has made her an instant superstar and an inspiration to millions affected by the hair loss disorder.
Joanna remains modest about her decision, saying, “On one level if was a case of ‘this is just me’, I get off my bike, take my helmet off, and that’s who I am. I did know it would be making a statement I just didn’t anticipate the size of the reaction.”
Although Joanna owns several wigs, it was her openness and willingness to reveal her bald head to the world which has provided inspiration to those with Alopecia across the globe, boosting the confidence and self-esteem of those affected by the condition. Her positive perspective is refreshing, as she says, “There’s part of me that thinks. ‘I’m not ill, there’s nothing wrong with me.’ Most of the time I don’t even think about it.”
Anyone concerned that they may be experiencing Alopecia should contact a hair loss specialist as soon as possible to find out the root cause, as the condition can be brought on by extreme stress or other factors. It is important to rule out other causes of hair loss, such as iron-deficiency anaemia, telogen effluvium or a thyroid condition.
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