Best foot forward

Disabled Thalidomide victim gives new meaning to the phrase “foot massage”

SUE Kent certainly landed on her feet after jumping from a desk-bound job into a career as a masseuse.

The disabled 48-year-old has pioneered a massage method – using only her feet – and now runs fledgling business Enjoyfeet.

But the woman who gives a new meaning to the words “foot massage” has no plans to put up her feet and rest on her laurels.

She now has an Olympic ambition – after becoming the first fully-qualified disabled sport massage therapist.

She said: “My ambition is to pursue the feet-only technique to the highest level.”

Sue’s arms are just eight inches long and she only has seven fingers, due to birth defects caused by the drug Thalidomide.

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The mother-of-two had been massaging her sporty family for years to soothe their hard-worked bodies – her son is a surfer and her husband a rower – and decided to take the leap and try and make a career out of it three years ago.

She said: “I wanted to get out of working in marketing and advertising, and my friend said ‘Why don’t you do something nobody else can?’”

The pioneering masseuse has developed techniques to do everything able-bodied people can, from treating backs to head massage. Now she travels to Islington from her home in south Wales every month to practice at the Moving Arts Base in Liverpool Road.

Many of her clients prefer the foot-only method, which she says is not just for disabled people and can be more effective and less hard work than using hands.

“People say it’s very good for them because it’s so firm,” she said. “You can get a much more powerful massage through feet and anyone can do it.

“You can sit there with someone under your legs, just using the natural weight of your legs to massage.”

Sue eventually decided to take her work a step further – and was the first disabled person to go for a diploma that would qualify her to work with elite athletes.

“The diploma I studied for is what you need to have to be taken seriously,” she said. “It was a bit of a challenge and at times I thought maybe I would not get through it. It meant a lot when I did.”

Now the ambitious graduate has applied to be a sports massage therapist for the Olympics. She is doggedly building up her experience and will this year work on the Welsh Iron Man, where she will treat bodies battered by a gruelling long-distance triathlon, and the Llanelli marathon, in west Wales.

“The more I do the more likely it is that I might get to the Olympics,” she said. “It could be pie in the sky, but it’s my aim. You’ve got to have an aim in life.”