Kiera Byland has excelled at the highest levels of Special Olympics, earning six gold medals over two World Games.
But competing is not enough for the 24-year-old British athlete. Because Special Olympics has meant so much in her life, she has used her platform to help others as an instructor and ambassador.
It’s been a medal-winning pursuit—even a British Empire Medal.
“Everybody needs that person in life, that someone to root for them and encourage them, help them to develop their skills and believe in them,” Kiera said. “Because I’m part of the Special Olympics platform and my voice can be heard, I want to do the same for other people, that their thoughts and opinions and voices need to be heard.”
Kiera first got involved with Special Olympics in 2013 and quickly became one of Britain’s best cyclists.
She won three gold medals at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles and added three more golds at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi. Kiera also has competed locally and nationally in swimming and horse riding.
Wanting to give back, she sought out opportunities to teach children the things she’s learned and help empower them through Special Olympics.
Kiera earned a Level 2 British Cycling qualification and became a Bikeability Level 3 instructor, allowing her to work with young children—with and without intellectual disabilities—to gain stability on balance bikes. Some even move on to pedal bikes with training wheels or stabilizers, as the British say.
Kiera also has a Level 2 ASA swimming teaching qualification, which means she can teach individually or with an assistant.
“Sometimes children might struggle in a traditional school, but with our lessons it's fun, it’s different, it's outside,” said Keira, who lives in greater Manchester. “It’s so interesting to see how children react differently to adults and the different ways of teaching and delivery.”
Kiera has become deeply involved with Special Olympics Great Britain, serving as a board member and vice chair of its Athlete Leadership Team. She is the chair of the Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia Athlete Leadership Council, vice chair of the Global Athlete Leadership Council and last year became a Special Olympics Athlete Consultant.
To round out her skill set, Kiera has received college diplomas and certificates in sport, marketing and business enterprise to hopefully make a career out of her current work.
Kiera’s accomplishments in athletic arenas and board rooms have garnered her plenty of attention. She’s appeared on the BBC and other TV programs, been on the radio and written about in newspapers.
Now, about that British Empire Medal.
An honor created in 1922, the British Empire Medal is granted by the Crown in recognition of meritorious civil or military service.
Kiera was awarded a British Empire Medal for her services to sport in 2021, which included an invite to the Queen’s birthday honors list. She received the medal from the lord-lieutenant on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony that included the High Sheriff and members of Kiera's Family.
“My mum and dad came and there were other people there,” she said. “They gave us between 20- and 30-second introductions for each class, which we didn’t necessarily know heading into the ceremony, which was really nice.”
A well-deserved honor for an athlete intent on giving back.