A member of the University of Warwick Wheelchair Racing Academy that launched last year, Mel Nicholls will be racing in the 100m and 200m T34 events. One of 28 debutants in the 49 strong ParalympicsGB team, Mel only started racing following a taster day organised by UKA in 2010 where she first met coach-to-be Job King. At that time Mel was competing in Para-Dressage at national standard and working as a voluntary teaching assistant.
A sports fanatic, Mel had her life turned upside down in her 20’s following a series of severe strokes. The third, in 2008, left her unable to use her left leg and part of her left arm. Her balance and coordination were also affected, leaving her unable to walk unaided.
“I’ve found a real passion for wheelchair racing as it’s very similar to running which I always used to love to do so much,” she said. “I’ve always been an active and sporty person and even though I’m now disabled, I do not see myself as any less able.”
Using borrowed racing chairs, Mel and Job travelled across the UK and Europe in 2011 gaining experience, trying different techniques and learning from mistakes. Without Lottery Funding and in need of faster times, Mel decided to focus 100% on racing, parting with dressage horse Harry and leaving her school class. A custom-made racing chair ‘Dolly’ was funded by Wheelpower.
After flying to Tunisia in March to confirm her international classification, kind donations from friends and local businesses made trips to races in Switzerland and the US Nationals possible. The extra commitment to training and overseas competition opportunities were rewarded by huge improvements this season, including a huge 6 second chunk from her 200m best, now at 35.93sec. Currently ranked 4th in the 200m and 6th at 100m, Mel has beaten all of her rivals apart from world record holder and GB team-mate Hannah Cockroft this year.
Attracting a growing number of new athletes from across Warwickshire and the Midlands, the Academy has seen visits from GB head coach Peter Eriksson and now recognised as one of four centres for wheelchair racing in the UK.
“Having a group at the Academy really helps to push me on. Although we are mixed ages and abilities, everybody works together, but also the support and friendship make the sessions a lot of fun too! With free coaching from Job twice a week, one of the fastest tracks in the country, and the little touches from the University that make us feel welcome, this is a great set-up”.
“I am really proud to join the tradition of Godiva athletes representing Great Britain at Olympic and Paralympic Games”.
There are now less than 50 days to Opening Ceremony to make final preparations. Mel’s events are: 31st August (100m Heats & Final) and 6th September (200m Heats & Final).
If you are interested in joining the Academy please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org