Athletics is Life, Life is Athletics
I know this a running site, but I do my running a little bit different, I roll…
My name is Nick Smith, 24 years old and I am a Wheelchair Racer from Farsley, Leeds. I’m pushing towards a place in the Paralympic GB team! There is a lot to aim for the in the next 5 years, and I’m up for the challenge. There’s the European Champs in Italy in 2016, Rio 2016, London World Champs 2017 and Tokyo 2020! Bring it on!!
I was born with disability called Arthrogryposis, my disability affects all four limbs so therefore I am classified as a T52 athlete. Classification in disability Athletics is a mine field, to break it down for wheelchair racing is as follows; 6 categories – T33 and T34 are for athletes with Cerebral Palsy, you may have heard of Hannah Cockroft, she competes as a T34. Then there are 4 other categories; T51, T52, T53 and T54 – David Weir is a T54 athlete. The lower the number the more severe a person’s disability affects them. Classifications are there to try balance the playing field.
I compete over 4 distances; 100m, 200m, 400m and the dreaded 1500m! I’m much more of a sprinter as I’m so light, I’m best at the start of the race, so the 100m is definitely my strongest and overall favourite event of the lot!!
I have been involved in sport since the age of 6, playing Wheelchair Basketball; where I had gone on to represent Yorkshire in both a playing and a coaching capacity.
I got involved in athletics when I was 12 years old. My coach Paul Moseley came into my high school to deliver some disability athletics and then he invited me to come and have a go at Wheelchair Racing at John Charles Centre for Sport on a Thursday evening, as part of Leeds City Athletics Club. I was the first member of the wheelchair racing club, and I have been there ever since, and to this day I’m still being coached by Paul!
Although I started Athletics when I was 12, I would say I have only been taking it seriously the past 3 years. Back in 2012 I got my classification changed from a T53 to a T52, and realised I had a good chance at doing well in that classification – so I cracked on with training!
I got back into competing in 2014 having not raced since 2010. I was fortunate enough to be working on a summer camp in the USA as part of the Camp America program in the summers of 2012 and 2013. These were two of the best summers of my life! Even though I did miss out watching the Olympics and Paralympics – I soon sorted that out when I got home, I bought the DVDs and had a binge watch!
The past 2 racing seasons I have gone from strength to strength, getting quicker and quicker. I absolutely smashed my old personal bests and I’m now ranked number 2 in Great Britain in my classification over the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1500 metres. Due to my success I was selected to be part of the British Athletics Talent Development Squad as having strong potential to reach Rio 2016 and/or Tokyo 2020.
The past season was a great one! Back in May I travelled to Switzerland to compete in the IPC Grand Prix. This competition is the biggest Wheelchair Racing competition outside of major international. It was unbelievable! It was the first time I have seen so many wheelchair racers. It was definitely the highlight of my year, competing against the world’s best in my classification and doing pretty well in the process!!
When I returned from Switzerland I had something else to look forward to. My new racing chair!! I settled into it surprisingly quickly and in my first competition I beat the number 1 ranked to T52 in the UK by over a second in the 100m! I believe I’ve progressed a lot from season to season. I didn’t beat the number 1 the previous season but this season it became a regular occurrence over the 100m – the proof that training pays off!
I’m currently in winter training, and I’m actually loving it – the biggest shock to my coach! I’m feeling so much stronger than I did compared to this time last year, and I’m doing a lot more training than I ever have done, up to 14 sessions per week! Training is split between chair sessions and gym sessions.
I do most of my chair sessions at the John Charles Centre for Sport or on custom rollers similar to what cyclists use in my Dads garage. My Gym sessions are done at the Edge, which is part of Leeds University, with my Strength and Conditioning Coach, Tim Jarrett, who I have been working with since October.
I’m really happy with how training is going and I’m looking forward to the start of the season. My first competition is the IPC grand prix in Dubai in March, I can’t wait! Then I will be competing throughout the UK up until May where I head out to Switzerland to compete again. On my return I will be doing more competitions in the UK. Pushing for selection for the European Championships in Italy and ultimately Rio 2016.
We will see what happens!!
Keep track of Nick’s progress on the road to Rio: http://runleeds.co.uk/r/nick-smith-wheelchair-racer/