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AgilityMagazine Issue 2 June 2018

Jade Jones-Hall Switching to triathlon, winning Commonwealth gold and studying a law degree ALSO INSIDE: STEF REID | DAVID WEIR | ALICE TAI | ELLIOT STEWART


Welcome Celebrating our Paralympics stars…

WELCOME to the June edition of Agility – the digital magazine focusing on disability sports and the UK’s Paralympic stars. Firstly, I must begin with a huge thank you to everyone involved in our launch issue. We had a wonderful response to the first edition – from readers, featured athletes, sporting associations and advertisers alike. Agility would never have come to fruition without your assistance, so we are eternally grateful and hope we continue to offer you a decent read for many years to come! That leads me nicely onto our latest offering, which once again features a plethora of top sports stars including athletes Stef Reid, David Weir and Eve Walsh-Dann. Elsewhere, April’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast were a fantastic example of how to integrate able-bodied and Para events. We reflect on the Aussie adventure with gold medalists Jade Jones-Hall and Alice Tai.

We’ve also taken the opportunity to expand our grassroots section in this issue, with some fantastic case studies courtesy of British Rowing and Swim England to accompany the latest Project Showcase. Last but certainly not least, a big welcome to Agility’s new columnist – Hannah Cockroft. Follow the five-time Paralympic champion’s build-up to Tokyo 2020 in every issue. Thanks Hannah! If all that wasn’t enough, take a look at our selection of great embedded videos too. Enjoy!

AgilityMagazine Issue 2 June 2018

Jade Jones-Hall Switching to triathlon, winning Commonwealth gold and studying a law degree ALSO INSIDE: STEF REID | DAVID WEIR | ALICE TAI | ELLIOT STEWART

Cover image: Jade Jones-Hall Credit: ITU Media/Delly Carr © AWJ Publishing. All rights reserved. ISSN-2516-4872 +44 7747 763977 Twitter: @Agility_mag Facebook: @AgilityMagazine Managing Editor: Lee Jones Digital Editor: Damien Wilde Sales Manager: Emily Saville Images: ParalympicsGB, British Athletics, ITU Media/Delly Carr, Athletics NI, British Judo, British Swimming, London Marathon, British Rowing Design by:

Lee Jones Agility Magazine, Managing Editor

Take a look at this great video from BP

Many thanks to…

Agilitymagazine | 3 @newroadcreative Agility Magazine is published by AWJ Publishing. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the views of the Managing Editor or AWJ Publishing. Reproduction is strictly prohibited without the written consent of the Publisher

Contents Issue 2 June 2018

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STEF REID World champion longjumper Stef on how she found ‘The Energy Within’ DAVID WEIR It’s eight victories at the London Marathon and counting for the Weirwolf

JADE JONES-HALL On switching sports, winning Commonwealth gold and studying a law degree

24 28 32

ELLIOT STEWART He was “born into judo” – and now Elliot is targeting Tokyo 2020 glory

HANNAH COCKROFT In her new column, Hannah discusses the long ‘road’ to Switzerland

ALICE TAI Why the 2018 Commonwealth Games were her favourite competition yet Agilitymagazine | 4

36 40 44

JACK RUTTER From the pain of early retirement to the joy of coaching young footballers EVE DANN-WALSH Teenage sprint star Eve is targeting a European senior spot later this year

BRITISH ROWING Could you be among the next generation of GB Paralympic rowing champions?

W H E N W E A R E F R E E TO M OV E , A N Y T H I N G I S P O S S I B L E . Š2017 Toyota Motor Corporation. All rights reserved.

In the News... First batch of world-class para events announced FOUR of Britain’s biggest para athletics stars have been confirmed to compete at this summer’s Müller Anniversary Games. World record holders in the women’s 100m and 200m in the T11 and T38 classifications respectively, Libby Clegg and Sophie Hahn, will be joined by multiple global medallist Richard Whitehead. Kare Adenegan, who at the age of just 15 picked up a silver and two bronze medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, joins the trio and returns to the London Stadium - a venue where she claimed a further three medals at last summer’s World Para Athletics Championships. Hahn produced two electric displays on home soil at last summer’s World Champs and is relishing the prospect of being back in front of British fans at the Anniversary Games, where she’ll be competing in the women’s T37/38 200m. She said: “It will be amazing to compete in

front of a home crowd once again. The London Stadium is a very special place for me, and I’ll never forget winning two gold medals and setting two world records there last summer in front of my friends and family.” Adenegan will be in action over 100m, while Whitehead will run in the men’s T61 200m - a distance where he clocked a best of 23.01 in 2017. Clegg, who missed last summer’s World Championships through injury, and guide runner Chris Clarke will race in the women’s T11 200m. The Muller Anniversary Games takes place over two days at the London Stadium on July 21-22. British Athletics’ major events director, Cherry Alexander said: “Last summer’s World Para Athletics Championships were ground breaking, and we are delighted to welcome four of the biggest names in the sport to the Muller Anniversary Games in July.”

British team announced for Boccia Champs He said: “It will be incredibly tough, we will need to keep our discipline and focus but we have the athletes to do it.” Smith boasts four Paralympics medals including individual gold from Rio 2016. He added European champion to his list of titles in 2017. They will be joined by five other Paralympians in the Great Britain squad - Claire Taggart, Jamie McCowan, Patrick Wilson, Jess Hunter and Evie Edwards.

STEPHEN MCGUIRE and David Smith MBE have been named in Great Britain’s 10-strong boccia squad for the BISFed 2018 World Boccia Championships at Exhibition Centre Liverpool from August 12-18. Fresh from winning two gold medals at the Montreal Boccia World Open, Scotland’s McGuire is BC4 world number one and will be aiming to defend his individual title. He believes Great Britain can top the medal table in Liverpool.

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Take a look at this great video from BP

Double gold delight for Wiggs GREAT BRITAIN’S Para-canoe athletes won four medals on their final day of the World Cup 1 in Hungary to take their total for the event to six. Emma Wiggs picked up her second gold of the competition when she won the KL2 200m final, with compatriot Charlotte

Henshaw taking silver and both athletes beating their personal bests by more than a second. Jeanette Chippington added a bronze to her previous silver, this time in the women’s KL1 200m. To round it off, David Phillipson had an excellent meet for the Brits by winning bronze in the men’s VL3 200m final. Wiggs said: “I’m super proud of the way we both dealt with a big wind and waves. I hope and think we can push each other all the way onto that plane to Tokyo.  “This is really early for us which is why we decided to make it a training week. It was a bit of an unknown because it’s early and we haven’t really worked on the second half of a race. “To come away with two golds is brilliant. It was unexpected but it’s even more exciting to know we have more to come.”

Curling star Malone retires DOUBLE world champion wheelchair curler Angie Malone MBE has retired from the sport that has taken her to four Paralympic Winter Games.  Malone made the decision after returning from the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics earlier this year.  She said: “My curling career has been an amazing experience with many highs and lows, it has been an absolute emotional rollercoaster. To be on the podium at

a Paralympics and to do so twice, are moments that are definitely among my career highlights.” As a mentor with the Winning Scotland Foundation, her intention is to concentrate her efforts on continuing that work coaching all age groups in life changes and sport as well as seeking to inspire others to take up the sport. Angie Malone MBE, pictured right, has retired from wheelchair curling

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Clare’s role

THE British Paralympic Association (BPA) has announce that Clare Cunningham is joining the organisation as as its new athlete services manager. Cunningham is a three-time Paralympian with experience of competing in two sports. She made her Games debut in Para swimming at the Barcelona 1992 Games where she won four silver medals and set a new world record in the 50m freestyle S9 on her way to claiming gold, before competing at her second Games at Atlanta 1996.

Project Showcase


HE ParalympicsGB Equestrian Team enjoyed a hugely successful 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, winning a total of 11 medals – including seven golds - to eclipse their London 2012 haul. Sophie Wells, Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham, Natasha Baker and Lee Pearson (pictured from left to right) were in fine form at Deodoro, claiming a hatful of individual medals as well as the team title. Speaking at the time, Para-Equestrian Dressage Performance Manager Sarah Armstrong said: “Twenty years on from the introduction of para-dressage at the Paralympic Games, I’m beyond thrilled and delighted with the incredible performances the whole squad have been able to deliver on the Field of Play. “Their dedication and commitment to delivering their best is humbling and both I and the rest of the support team behind them are very proud to have been on this journey with them. For them to come out here and redeliver beyond what they did in London is beyond amazing.”w Agilitymagazine | 8



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World champion long-jumper Stef Reid on finding ‘The Energy Within’…


AVING medalled at Paralympic Games, World Championships and European champs, Stef Reid admits she is always on the look-out for a new challenge. And, while the 33-year-old has no plans to call time on her illustrious athletics career just yet, she is constantly testing herself – on and off the long jump runway. Here, Reid gives Agility the lowdown on her role in the inspirational short film The Energy Within, on collecting her MBE from Prince Charles, and on cooking up a storm in the Celebrity MasterChef kitchen. ON STARRING IN ‘THE ENERGY WITHIN’… “You receive emails all the time with different ideas. This one message came through from Samuel de Ceccatty, the writer and director, and it was an idea for a film. It was not something I was expecting at all, but he piqued my curiosity so I said ‘let’s have a meeting about it.’ “Samuel came up and met me in Loughborough and I was really taken by his vision and his passion. I was surprised by how much a non-disabled male understood about female disability. “It intrigued me and was a project that had never been done before in terms of the angle he came into it. It was nice to do something that wasn’t based on a competitive sporting background – this is a story about an everyday person taking on an incredible challenge in everyday life.” ON HER ACTING SKILLS… “I did a bit of stage work when I was in high school but not too much. So Samuel not only wrote and directed it, but also provided the acting lessons!

“He warned me that some of the days of filming would be hard because we would be going to some quite emotional places. It wasn’t until I got to the filming that I understood what he meant. That was a good thing though – to capture that on screen and show it to the world. “It was acknowledging that if you want to achieve good things there are going to be big hurdles to overcome, and what you see at the end doesn’t always reflect what happens in between. “It was nerve-wracking because I didn’t want to suck at acting! But during the whole process I never felt afraid to make a mistake or look stupid – Samuel and co created an environment where I was free to go for it. It was so different from what I do on a day-to-day basis, I absolutely loved it and would love to do more.” ON COMPETING IN 2018… “The European Championships will be the main focus for this season. It’s a different year for a lot of people – it’s the mid-year in the Paralympic cycle and some athletes have chosen to take time off. “In 2016, you didn’t do anything new because it’s the Paralympics and you stick to what you know works. 2017 was the World Championships at home in London so you don’t take too many risks ahead of that one. The Europeans are a big deal and you want to do well but 2018 is really the last year you have to experiment and try new things ahead of Tokyo 2020. “You’re working hard every year during the cycle, but you’re focusing on different areas. So this year we’ll have done lots of things and we’ll sit down at the end and decide what worked and potentially what didn’t. “I find that I change every year in terms of strength, power and technique. I also like trying new things, so 2019 will be more about refining things and then 2020

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is about sticking with what you know and what you’ve learned ahead of the big one.” ON COLLECTING HER MBE IN MAY… “That was genuinely so unexpected because generally athletes are only awarded honours in Olympic and Paralympic years. I think part of that was performancebased but also due to my work with the 2017 board. I’ve no idea what the nomination said, but I’m quite proud of the fact that it was very much a whole package in terms of contribution to Paralympic sports. “It was a brilliant day. We got to meet and mingle with other award winners, which was great. There were 60-80 there and I met some fantastic people. It was so interesting to see such a huge spread across all sorts of public life. It was very personal and I got the impression from Prince Charles that he was very proud of our achievements and knew exactly who we were and what we had done.” ON CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF… “There are 20 people in the new series of Celebrity MasterChef – and I am one of them! “I love the show, but I actually started cooking relatively late in life. I wasn’t that interested in it growing up. It was only really when I went to Uni when I had to start cooking for myself. “It was predominantly when I became more serious about my athletics and understanding the connection between eating well and performing well. “These things are often hard to manage because I’m not retired from athletics yet. So we chatted about it and my coach has always been a big fan of positive distractions. He knows that the best performers are confident and well rounded in all areas of their life. “MasterChef was actually quite scary because cooking is not an area I am particularly confident in, but I like doing at least one really challenging thing each year and this year it was MasterChef.”w

Watch Stef Reid star in The Energy Within here

Samuel de Ceccatty, Writer & Director, The Energy Within “The Energy Within is an inspiring short film about a para-athlete who finds the courage to follow her seemingly impossible dream. “Having a close family member with MS, I’ve been fervently following the incredible progress in technology such as Biomechatronics, and it’s very exciting that today people with mobility issues are no longer held back, since science allows them to rival – and maybe even outdo – people without ‘disabilities’. “Yet what makes this shift possible in the first place is individual willpower: that moment when your inner strength is ignited, making it possible to overcome any challenges. And that’s the feeling I wanted to bring to screen with my short film The Energy Within. “Ultimately, I wanted to tell an inspiring and humane story that captures a hugely important shift in our understanding of disabilities, through the truthful and intimate story of a woman’s journey to finding the strength to follow her dreams.”

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“Samuel met me in Loughb his vision and his passion. non-disabled male underst

borough and I was really taken by . I was surprised by how much a tood about female disability.�

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Weir London Marathon Focus…


David Weir made it an incredible eighth victory at the London Marathon in an event he says is “in my blood”

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EMARKABLY, it was 16 years ago that David Weir stormed to his maiden London Marathon victory. Having finished third the previous year and fifth in 2000, it was a natural progression for the then 22-year-old. However, it was also a massive breakthrough for the Londoner who carved seven seconds off his personal best time to claim a hugely popular

home triumph.

After narrowly missing out on further glory over the following three years, Weir cracked it again in 2006 in the first part of a hat-trick of wins. Victories five and six followed in 2011 and 2012 before the Weirwolf made it a magnificent seven last year. The wait for number eight wasn’t to last long. With Marcel Hug and Daniel Romanchuk challenging him in the closing stages this time around, Weir sprinted clear to win in a time of 1:31:15. “The win feels amazing”, Weir said. “Last year was such a weird year. I couldn’t really celebrate until after and I didn’t know what state of mind I would be in. My head was a lot clearer this year.” The six-time Paralympic champion is fully focused on the roads now following a stellar career on the track. His preparations for this year’s London triumph saw him take part in The Vitality Big Half in March, where he finished second, and then the Paris Marathon where a puncture also limited him to the runners-up spot.

Explaining why London means so much to him - prior to his victory - Weir remarked: “I love the race. The wheelchair race has moved on so much. It’s now part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors. We all feel like professional athletes, not just wheelchair users. “It’s my town, so I’ll have a few friends there and a few thousand on the streets of London cheering for me too. “I’m more motivated than I was last year,” he continued. “I feel mentally and physically stronger than I felt after Rio. I don’t miss the track – the intense training straight after the marathon – at all.  “It was a lot of pressure to deliver. People put a medal around your neck before you’d even taken part. I really enjoy just racing for myself.” Now, following his win at the Great Manchester Run last month, Weir is looking forward to competing in his 20th London Marathon appearance in a row - and targeting ten victories. “The older I get, my endurance is getting better,” he added. “At the beginning when I used to do marathons my endurance was rubbish, so I’m keeping the speed and gaining a bit more endurance base. “I know what I’m capable of. I’m going to do the rest of the marathons in the autumn and race the guys. It starts again in Berlin so I’ve got a good chance.”

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There was also plenty for the London crowds to cheer in the women’s wheelchair race, with Australia’s Madison de Rozario finishing ahead of four-time champion Tatyana McFadden and Susannah Scaroni. Britain’s Jade Jones-Hall came home seventh following her marathon bronze at the Commonwealth Games – and gold in the para-triathlon. See page 20 for more on her Gold Coast exploits. It was something of a surprise victory, despite De Rozario’s gold medals in the 1,500m and T54 marathon at the Commonwealth Games. “That was amazing,” said the delighted 24-year-old. “I’m very surprised to be honest. I didn’t think I’d have enough for the final sprint. “The roads are so rough. Working through that was hard and my back started to cramp up pretty badly about halfway through so I’m just really happy I had enough left to come home strong. “Just physically doing the 42km felt a lot easier after last weekend (at the Commonwealth Games) and

knowing that my body is happy to do it. Then you throw in the competitive part on top of it and I had a bit more confidence going in, knowing that I could stay and that I could maybe sprint finish.”

“Last year was such a weird year. I couldn’t really celebrate until after and I didn’t know what state of mind I would be in. My head was a lot clearer this year.”

Elsewhere in London, Scotsman Derek Rae claimed a first ever World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup win in the men’s T45/46 event for arm amputees. “To come away with first is what dreams are made of,” said the 32-year-old, who finished in 2:36:13. “That’s what all the hard work’s been for and I’m exceptionally proud of myself, proud of the team, proud of the support. My wife’s been a massive support too and I’d like to dedicate this to her. “It was just a case of keeping focused and keeping the head down. I worked hard for that to happen and I think it shone through in the end, so I was able to finish strongly enough to take the win.” Britain’s Rob Smith claimed gold in the T51/52 race in Agilitymagazine | 17

“That’s what all the hard work’s been for and I’m exceptionally proud of myself, proud of the team, proud of the support.” - Derek Rae a time of 2:00:17 for his first victory in London. Alberto Suarez Laso was the first of the visually impaired athletes over the line with the Spaniard winning the men’s T11/12 race in 2:28:49. Japan were victorious in the men’s T13 race thanks to Toshiharu Takai (2:38:23) and his team-mate Misato Michishita, who retained the women’s T11/12 title in 3:04:00. Finally, double leg amputee Brian Reynolds won the men’s T62-64 event on his London Marathon debut in 3:03:35. Inspiring others… David Weir’s racing around the capital this year hasn’t been limited to the London Marathon – with the speedster also storming to victory in last month’s Westminster Mile. As a founder of the Weir Archer Academy, the 39-yearold loves to see young athletes experiencing, and enjoying, road racing. “It’s always amazing to race round here, it’s an iconic

scene,” he said. “It’s amazing for my academy, because the youngsters get a chance to race on the road at a lesser distance. “The really young kids we’ve got know they can do a mile, but they don’t get the opportunity to race that. The Westminster Mile is a special event - it gets families together, it gets young kids going out and doing some activity. “It gives them something to focus on every year and come and do their best over a mile distance – finishing in this iconic finish, like you do with the London Marathon. “It gets them used to that and then they can do the Mini Marathon when they get a bit older, so it’s great. It’s just a fantastic event, so I’d advise people to sign up for next year. “It was a bit tough for me because of the pollen,” added Weir. “When you stop it gets in your throat. But that was probably where I’m about in training, to be honest – I didn’t specifically train for this event, so I’m happy with that time.”w

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Jones-Hall H Agility chats with the new Commonwealth champ AVING represented Britain on the athletics track at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games, Jade Jones-Hall was inspired by triathlon’s debut in Rio – and decided it was the perfect time for a new challenge.

Her international paratriathlon debut followed less than a year later before the 22-year-old really announced herself on the big stage in April. Jones-Hall’s stunning victory at the Gold Coast – across the 750m swim, 20km hand-bike ride and 5km wheelchair race – showcased the Middlesbrough-born athlete’s rapid progress. And it helped achieve a double celebration for Team England in the PTWC category as Joe Townsend took gold in the men’s event.

Jones-Hall wasn’t finished in Australia, however, and added a bronze medal in the T54 marathon on the final day of the Games before carrying the English flag at the closing ceremony that evening. Understandably, the whole experience surpassed her pre-Games expectations. “I desperately wanted a medal of some sort,” she told Agility. “Going into the triathlon, I knew I was capable of that because my training had gone well and I’d improved a lot over the winter. “I thought I’d try triathlon following the Rio Paralympics, and started from scratch, learning how to swim and bike. So I’m still making improvements all the time and there’s a lot we can work on. “Heading into the Gold Coast, I knew I’d improved on the swim and bike section, so I definitely wanted to come back with a medal but didn’t think it would be gold, that’s for sure!”

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Commonwealth Games 2018 men’s paratriathlon gold medalist Joe Townsend

On her Commonwealth Games preparations, Jones-Hall continued: “We had a great prep camp – we stayed just north of Brisbane and it was a good set-up going into the event. There was also a really nice atmosphere within our team and that helped heading into the Games, and it all came together on the day. “Because we had been training together, we knew everyone was in good shape and going really well. That helped to push each of us along as well and obviously Joe (Townsend) won the men’s race, which was great to see.” With just over a week to rest and recuperate, JonesHall admits she wasn’t bursting with confidence on the marathon start-line. “The bronze was completely unexpected,” she confirmed. “I hadn’t trained particularly for the marathon, and all my work had been focused towards the triathlon – that was the event I thought I could do really well in. “In between the triathlon and marathon I had about eight days, so I spent all of that in my race chair and getting used to it for that amount of time. In the triathlon you’re only in a race chair for 13 minutes, whereas it’s a fair bit longer than that in the marathon. “It was a real surprise but the course on the Gold Coast suited me – it’s almost completely flat and it was a really

tactical race which I quite like.” Was it time for a well-earned rest after those exertions down under and the long flight home? No. Just a week later Jones-Hall was back in action at the London Marathon, taking a seventh-placed finish and claiming her fastest time yet around the streets of the capital. Remarkably, in the midst of all the sporting fun she has also been completing a law degree at Teeside University. “The last few months have been crazy, especially in the lead up the Commonwealth Games,” she admitted. “Combining my studies and exams with those preparations, it’s been tough but it’s all done now and was definitely worth it. “Now that I’m not at Uni, for the first time I will be able to train full-time. I went straight from school to A-Levels to University, so I’ve never been able to focus solely on training. I’m looking forward to being able to do that over the next couple of years leading into Tokyo.” Victory at Eton Dorney in the recent ITU Para-triathlon World Cup – again alongside men’s winner Townsend – confirmed Jones-Hall’s burgeoning reputation in the sport.

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“Heading into the Gold Coast, I knew I’d improved on the swim and bike section, so I definitely wanted to come back with a medal but didn’t think it would be gold, that’s for sure!”

She remarked: “I hope I’ll be able to continue to do both triathlons and marathons. I really enjoy both, so wouldn’t like to have to choose. “As far as my training goes, it will be focused towards triathlon and if I can continue doing marathons then that will be great. I’d love to do both at Tokyo but that will be a case of seeing what the schedule is like as we get closer to the Games. “The swimming and bike are still the areas where I can improve the most. Obviously, with the race chair, that’s what I’ve done for the last ten years. So that goes onto the back burner for now while I focus on building up strength for the bike. “In the race chair you don’t necessarily have to be very strong, you’ve got to have the right technique to be able to sustain that for a long period of time. Whereas on the bike it’s all about strength. It’s very different to what I’m used to, so the next few months and especially leading up to Tokyo is all about getting stronger. “In fact, everything between now and 2020 will ultimately be aimed at Tokyo. It’s two years away and that seems like lots of time, but it isn’t really and it only feels like five minutes ago that we were in Rio. That’s the main aim and we’ll see how the next two years go!” w Agilitymagazine | 23



He was “born into judo” – and now Elliot Stewart aims to sho his skills and determination again at the Tokyo Paralympics


LLIOT STEWART was a six-month-old baby when his father Dennis took a bronze medal in the men’s half-heavyweight division at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Inspired by that achievement, it was no surprise that Elliot and his brothers followed their dad into the sport – and excelled. However, Elliot’s hopes of reaching the top were dealt a huge blow when the 30-year-old developed a rare condition called Keratoconus. “My sight was deteriorating pretty rapidly last year and from January to March I lost quite a lot of vision,” he explained. “It was decided that my vision was deteriorating too fast and I needed an operation. That was successful but I still need to have regular check-ups because my sight could start getting worse again. “Dad is one of the head coaches for the GB ablebodied team. He mentioned my vision to one of the visually-impaired team and they approached me to see if I fancied returning to full-time judo. “It was my wife who said ‘why not? You’re losing all these other things – being able to drive and work – why lose this as well?’ It was quite a tough time, so I thought I would get tested.” After being given the go ahead to join the team, the IBSA European Championships were to represent Elliot’s

debut event on the international VI circuit. He explained: “That gave me a goal and something to focus on – my training, getting my fitness back up and preparing to compete again. Before that I didn’t know what to do, I was lost. Because my sight was deteriorating so rapidly I was finding it hard to cope, but judo gave me something to focus on. “Getting that grit and determination back through training transferred across to other aspects of my life. For example, I’ve recommenced my university courses and am close to completing that now.” An impressive fifth place finish followed at the European Championships before Elliot followed that up with a bronze medal at the Tashkent World Cup and a gold in Brazil earlier this year. He was particularly encouraged by another bronze at the Antalya IBSA Grand Prix in April. “All the main competitors were there in my weight category (under-90kg) and I came through a pretty difficult draw, so it was great. “I was aiming for a medal and knew I had the ability to do it but, knowing the level of competition there, it did come as a slight surprise if I’m being completely honest. I fought well and was actually a bit unlucky not to get into the final.” He continued: “Having not been in VI for very long, it showed me that I have the ability to do well and where I am within the under-90kg category.

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art Š Mike Varey, elitepix


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“I was born into judo. Since the day I was born it has always been a big part of my life – always there to help me and keep me focused on what I need to do.” “It was a good build-up to that event, my best so far. I had a little injury at the beginning of the year and missed a tournament in February. Then I did some more squad training camps at the end of February and beginning of March before heading out to the competition in Brazil. “It was a tough build-up but it was what I needed and really paid off.”

those goals that keep me focused and determined. Other than my family, my children and my wife, judo is the other thing that gets me up in the morning and keeps me motivated. “I was born into judo. Since the day I was born it has always been a big part of my life – always there to help me and keep me focused on what I need to do.”

Elliot’s preparations have turned towards the IBSA World Championships in November. “I’m quite light for my weight category so between now and then I’m working on getting a bit bigger and putting a bit of muscle on and working on the things that I took from Turkey,” he remarked. “After Turkey - knowing that I can compete at the top level - I’m definitely focusing on the 2020 Paralympics now. That’s something I want to push my judo towards and it’s good to have that long-term goal to drive me on. “It’s great to keep that stability in my life and also having

Elliot is also quick to thank the members of the GB team for helping him to adapt to the VI circuit. “The boys and the coaches have made a massive difference,” he confirmed. “When we train together, we get on the mat and train until we virtually can’t walk any more. At the same time, we’re always looking out for each other and supporting each other. “It’s a close-knit group and these boys have really helped me in learning to cope with low visibility – not just in judo. That kind of support is massive and has helped me so much.”w

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Hannah Columnist


In her new column, Hannah Cockroft discusses the ‘road’ to Switzerland


ELL, my season finally got underway at the British Wheelchair Racing Championships – and it was very wet and very cold! We had spent 10 days training in Majorca just before we went into those championships, so the weather was a bit of a shock. Going from 20 degrees Celsius to six wasn’t great but I had a good lead up and was feeling very strong - and my times showed that. I was happy with it as a season’s opener.

I went sub two minutes in the 800m and that’s the first time I’ve done that so early on in the season, so I was super happy with that. Everyone was slipping around everywhere and it’s obvious we can all go much quicker. Even in the sunshine I would have been happy with my times, so it was a good start to what will be a pretty relaxed season. Competition-wise, I haven’t got that much going on, so maybe having that relaxed state of mind going into it has done me good. I’ll be a bit annoyed if this is my best season ever after I’ve been this relaxed with my preparations! More recently, we’ve been over to Switzerland for the annual racing events Agilitymagazine | 2

over there. That’s a series of three races – the Swiss IPC Grand Prix, the Daniela Jutzeler Memorial Meet, and the Swiss Nationals. It’s quite literally a Paralympic line-up for every single race. Switzerland in the wheelchair racing world is renowned for its fast tracks – they’re the fastest in the world for us to compete on. It’s at altitude, which makes you go a little bit quicker as well even though you feel a bit dizzy! So everyone loves to go out there, and they know they’re going to get good times, which most of us did. If you’re going to break a world record or do something amazing that’s where it’s probably going to be. This year we did it a bit differently. British Athletics didn’t send a team for the first time, so in my training group we had to put our heads together and get ourselves out there. Normally we fly out but this year we drove the 14 hours – what a nightmare! Saying that, it added to the relaxed nature of this year. It added a bit of pressure but in a different sense – I wasn’t thinking so hard about the racing

because my mind was on organising everything else! There are so many rules about driving in France, and there are all the passes we needed, and how were we going to fit everything in the car? But it was a nice adventure and something different. Looking back to April, I think the Commonwealth Games showed that the events can work together – they can be integrated and people are interested in what we’re doing. The Para and able-bodied events are very similar and show very similar skills, determination and traits of athletes. I think it was a wake-up for the athletes there, for the TV channels and for the public just how similar the events are. It was fantastic to see. The next Commonwealths are coming to Birmingham, so let’s get more Para events in there, get more people competing – and me! The 1,500m men’s wheelchair race was an event I watched with great interest. It was a bitter-sweet race because my training partner, Richard Chiassaro, was racing. He was everyone’s favourite to win and absolutely flew through the heats but got a puncture in the first 100m of the final. I was so gutted to see that. When you see all the work that goes into it and he has flown halfway around the world to be there, it just seems like such Agilitymagazine | 3

a waste. The brilliant thing about Rich is that he bounces back so well and never lets anything defeat him, which is a great attitude to have. On the flipside, it was incredible to see Nathan Maguire come through and, at 20 years old, finish fourth in the final, which was a massive achievement. In terms of the three guys ahead of him, it was Kurt Fearnley, Jake Lappin and Alexander Dupont, so a very experienced and talented trio who have been to lots of major championships. To see Nathan within points of a second of those guys was just fantastic. It shows that London did leave a legacy. Nathan started racing after that – so it proves that youngsters were inspired and they’re just coming through at the top level now. I think if my best mate had punctured I might have stopped to sit and cry with them! So the fact he had the mental strength to carry on and finish his race and fight for it was really impressive to see. I think we’re going to see great things from Nathan this year. w

Agilitymagazine | 4

Strong GB squad heading to Euros

Twenty-four of Britain’s top Para-swimmers are heading to the World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships IT’S been an exciting couple of weeks for our Para-swimmers, with records tumbling at the British Para-Swimming International Meet before confirmation of the GB team for August’s European Championships in Dublin. In Sheffield, home nations swimmers racked up more than 20 podium places. Among the gold medals were Alice Tai, Tully Kearney, Tom Hamer, Jordan Catchpole, Jessica-Jane Applegate and Maisie Summers-Newton, as Ellie Simmonds made her long-awaited return to action. The GB Euros squad includes Rio Paralympic champions Simmonds, Bethany Firth, Ollie Hynd, Ellie Robinson and Hannah Russell as well as eight swimmers making their British senior debuts. Rob Aubry, British Para-Swimming head coach said: “We saw some excellent performances at the British Para-Swimming International Meet. “It has shown us that we have many great

para-swimmers in this country who can hold their own against, and beat, some of the world’s best. “We set competitive selection times deliberately to bring out the best in our swimmers and test what they can do in the pressure of the arena, and many rose to that challenge. “The Europeans will be a challenging meet but I’m certain we have selected the right swimmers for the job. I’m delighted that eight swimmers will be making their debut for the British senior team.” GB squad: Jessica-Jane Applegate (City of Norwich); Jordan Catchpole (City of Norwich); Stephen Clegg (City of Sunderland); Louise Fiddes (Hatfield); Bethany Firth (ARDS SC); Grace Harvey (National Performance Centre Manchester); Tom Hamer (National Performance Centre Manchester); Ollie Hynd (Nova Centurion); Mikey Jones (National Performance Centre Agilitymagazine | 31

Manchester); Tully Kearney (COMAST); Jacob Leach (Cockermouth SC); Conner Morrison (University of Aberdeen Performance); Andrew Mullen (City of Glasgow); Zara Mullooly (Guildford City Swimming Club); Scott Quin (Warrender Baths Club); Rebecca Redfern (Worcester Swimming Club); Megan Richter (Orion); Ellie Robinson (Northampton SC); Hannah Russell (COMAST/National Performace Centre Manchester); Toni Shaw (University of Aberdeen Performance); Ellie Simmonds (Camden Swiss Cottage SC); Maisie Summers-Newton (Northampton SC); Alice Tai (National Performance Centre Manchester); Lewis White (City of Derby). The World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships take place at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin from August 13-19 this year. More than 550 para-swimmers from 37 countries are set to take part. It will be the first ever major international para sport event to take place in Ireland. w

Alice Ta

The Commonwealth Games were Alice Tai’s favourite competi Agilitymagazine | 32


ition yet – and not just thanks to her double medal success Agilitymagazine | 33

“I recently found out that some of my family are saving up to come and watch me in Tokyo as well, so I have to keep swimming and qualify for their sake! That’s an extra incentive.” Agilitymagazine | 34


T the age of just 19, Alice Tai has the complete set of gold medals. Victory in the S9 100m backstroke final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April added to her Paralympic, World and European golds. The Dorset-born swimmer narrowly missed out on another first place – by just 0.05 seconds – in the freestyle final, but left Australia with only good memories, as she told Agility Magazine… How was the Commonwealth Games experience? “I think it was my favourite competition that I’ve ever done. The whole integration of able-bodied and Para athletes was really special and it would be good to do that more in the future. “It would be difficult to replicate that for the Olympics and Paralympics because the event would last a month, but the Worlds, Europeans and Commonwealth Games can be merged. “I’d never been to Australia and didn’t know what to expect from the country and the Games because every event you go to is completely different. But it was even better than I expected. Australians love swimming and for every session every seat was sold-out. They just really appreciate a good race, which was something that we don’t get quite so much back here.” What were your targets ahead of the Gold Coast? “I definitely had my sights set on at least one medal. I knew that with the 100m backstroke I was going in first and I really wanted to come away with a PB and a gold medal. I got the gold but was just outside my PB which I’m still pretty happy with! “The 100m freestyle was such a close race between me, Lakeisha Patterson and the other two Aussies, and I was fine with a silver in that because my time was way faster than I expected. “It was a bit strange because I’m friends with a lot of athletes who were competing for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But, with the countries from the UK, everyone was Agilitymagazine | 35

cheering everyone else on. We’re all still friends and usually one team, so there was still that support and togetherness.” What’s next for you in the pool? “Later this year we have the European Championships in Dublin, so not as much travelling for that one! It will be my second Europeans, so I just want to PB there and come away with a few medals. “After Australia, I had four or five days off and went home to Bournemouth before heading back to Manchester where I study and getting straight back in the pool. It’s important to get back in the routine – when I haven’t got that I’m all over the place!” Why did you pop along to this year’s National Junior Para-Swimming Championships? “My first ever Para swimming competition was in Southampton. I saw on Twitter that the National Junior Championships were being held there again, and just wanted to go along and hopefully inspire the next generation. “When I was that age if someone who had been to the Paralympics, Europeans, Commonwealths had come to poolside with their medals and said they were in my position when they were younger, that would have really inspired me – and made my day! Even if I inspired just one person there that would mean a lot to me. “Whenever I see someone with a disability I want to let them know that they can do anything. Para swimming has become a second family for me. Everyone within the sport – the volunteers, the judges, the athletes, the supporters – make it very special and I’m thankful for it all.” How are your preparations going ahead of the 2020 Paralympic Games? “It’s crazy how quickly Tokyo is coming around, isn’t it! At the pool where I train we have a countdown clock which shows how many days until Tokyo. So it’s there for us for every training session, providing that extra motivation if we need it. “I recently found out that some of my family are saving up to come and watch me in Tokyo as well, so I have to keep swimming and qualify for their sake! That’s an extra incentive.”w

Agilitymagazine | 36


Rutter From the pain of early retirement to the joy of coaching young footballers...


AVING captained the ParalympicsGB football team in Rio and represented England’s cerebral palsy side in World and European Championships, Jack Rutter’s playing career came to an abrupt halt earlier this year. The international Federation of CP Football’s decision to revise its classification rules left the 27-year-old ineligible to play and having to hang up his boots with immediate effect. Rutter admits that was a huge blow – especially after such a strong showing for the England line-up at last year’s World Championships in Argentina.

“It didn’t come completely out of the blue because we knew they were looking at the classifications,” the former Birmingham City player told Agility. “I thought they were going to look at teams having two of the more impaired classifications on the pitch – they tried that in the World Championships which worked well – and keeping my classification which is the least impaired. “But they made a decision to get rid of my classification instead. That was obviously gutting for me – especially after we came fourth at the Worlds and showed so much promise.” He continued: “I was hoping to play for a lot longer than five years for England but it’s completely out of my hands, so I have to move on, stay positive and be thankful for what I did achieve in the team. “I have played for five years, played in every major competition and captained England and Great Britain, so I had a wonderful experience while it lasted. “Due to my brain injury I can’t play professionally and now I can’t play in disability football either, so I’m caught in between, which is a real shame.” Rutter has moved quickly to transfer his skills to the touchline as a coach of the England cerebral palsy Under-21 team. “I can draw upon the experiences I have both within the professional and CP game and combine those to help young players,” he explained. “I just need to develop as much as I can as a coach now and give the best sessions and feedback to players that I can. “At the last camp at Lilleshall, just to see the progression across the three days was fantastic. “That’s a nice feeling, and one I didn’t think I would ever have on the other side of the touchline. I’ve experienced so many amazing things as a coach already that it leaves me massively hopeful for the future and what I can achieve.” He continued: “We’ve got some great young players coming through. We have talent Agilitymagazine | 37

pathway hubs now from eight years old, and national emerging talent camps where all the best disability footballers in the country - deaf, partially sighted and CP - are present. “They’re getting proper coaching, excellent fitness programmes, and are encouraged to play both disability football and mainstream football to really test them. “The FA are doing so well with that and have a good structure in place. Over the next 5-10 years we are going to develop a lot of footballers – and particularly some really good ones within CP football.” A source of frustration for Rutter, though, is that his former team-mates and some of his young proteges won’t be able to follow his lead and represent their country at the 2020 Paralympics, with CP football not part of the Tokyo programme. “It’s a shame that the sport has had to miss a Paralympic Games in Tokyo, but I have every confidence it will be restored for Paris because it’s the pinnacle for us,” he said. “In disabled sport it doesn’t get any bigger than the Paralympic Games, so not having that representation does have a massive impact. Personally, I think blind, CP, amputee and powerchair football all deserve to be in the

Paralympics, and hopefully that will be the case in the future. “The Rio Games were the icing on the cake for me personally. To play in a World Championships, World Cup and European Championships was unbelievable, but the Paralympic Games are just something else. “It’s the pinnacle for any disabled athlete who has an impairment, so for me to reach that level and play as captain was incredible. We had a very inspirational team and 15,000 people watching in the stadium – including family and friends. It doesn’t get much better than that. “We finished fifth – our highest finish for over 30 years – and we put on some really good performances against two of the top teams in the world. “Most of all, we became Paralympians and will have that for rest of our lives.” Rutter – who is also first-team manager for Gloucestershire University and a motivational speaker – is now looking forward to a bright future as a coach. He concluded: “I feel like the world is my oyster, and if I can continue to develop and progress like I did as a player there’s no reason why I can’t achieve big things as a coach or manager.”w

Agilitymagazine | 38

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ATCHING middle-distance runner Michael McKillop storm to two gold medals at London 2012 was a moment of real celebration for Northern Ireland. And for 11-year-old Eve Walsh-Dann it was a moment of inspiration. Having been frustrated in her early forays into athletics, the North Down youngster recalls that double victory as key in establishing her love for the sport. “A few of my friends went training with North Down Athletic Club and I thought I would join them. I found it really difficult at first because I was training alongside able-bodied athletes. It was quite frustrating,” said Walsh-Dann, now 16. “But then I saw Michael McKillop, a local athlete who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, just like me. He took two golds at London 2012, which I thought was amazing and inspired me to want to do the same, so I kept going for it. “I was originally a middle-distance runner, like him, but then I switched to sprinting and became involved in the Parallel Success programme from British Athletics. They gave me more opportunities for competitions and I never really looked back.” Her progression has been impressive to say the least, and last year Walsh-Dann announced herself on the big stage with two gold medals at the inaugural IPC Athletics World Junior Championships. Fellow NI athlete Jack Agnew – who featured in April’s Agility - was also among the stars in Switzerland. “Before I went to the World Juniors I didn’t even consider winning, I was just really thrilled to be given the opportunity to represent my country,” remarked WalshDann, who won the T35-T38 100m and 200m events. “I went with the goal of making my coach, Roger Sexton, proud because he has worked so hard with me and supported me all the way.” The recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games weren’t an option for the sprinter, with no T36 races on the programme. However, senior international action may come in August. She added: “I was gutted to miss out on the Commonwealths, although I knew it was unlikely there would be T36 races included. Despite that, I was still hoping right up until the final schedule came out. “On the other hand, it was my GCSE year so I was probably better off without the days off school and being away for the training and competition anyway. I did get a bit jealous of being at home in the rain while that was going on in Australia though! “My main focus this year is the European Championships in Berlin. I’m keeping everything crossed that there will be a T36 race included. Ahead of that, I’ll keep training hard and competing, and trying to get a few PBs along the way.”w Agilitymagazine | 40



Teenage sprint star Eve Wa


Walsh-Dann is targeting a European senior spot Agilitymagazine | 41

Grassroots News... Young swimmers excel at National Championships at the Quays in Southampton. I remember having my first ever meet here back in 2010. It was the very start of my journey. “To be able to host events like the National Junior Para-Swimming Championships with so many young para-swimmers is really important. It makes everyone realise there is a community within para-swimming and these young swimming hopefuls are experiencing their first steps into that.” Ellen Stephenson, one of the competitors from the weekend said: “I came away with four S14 group bronze medals and two personal bests. “It’s important to come to events like this one as it gives me a chance to show what I can do. I’ve also really enjoyed meeting other people. It was really good meeting Alice Tai. She gave me some really good advice and encouragement.”

MORE than 100 young swimmers from across the country competed at the National Junior Para-Swimming Championships hosted by EFDS (now Activity Alliance) and Swim England. Team England’s Alice Tai, who won gold and silver at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, was there to cheer on the athletes. During the course of the two-day competition, swimmers aged between 10 and 18 years old competed in the short course event. Many medals were won across various events and personal bests were beaten. Colchester’s Ellie Challis broke a British record in the SB2 50m breaststroke event. She said: “I feel really good about beating my own British record. However, my biggest achievement was knocking 10 seconds off my personal best in the 50m backstroke.” Paralympic medallist Tai (featured in this issue) said: “It’s really nice being back here

Tennis Foundation net major boost THE Tennis Foundation has secured an agreement with British wheelchair manufacturer ROMA Sport to extend its title sponsorship of the National Wheelchair Tennis Series for 2018. The ROMA Sport National Series caters for players of all abilities and ages and is the entry-level tier of tournaments for wheelchair tennis players, with regional competitions taking place at 10 venues across the country. Every player who competes in a National

Series tournament is then eligible to compete in the ROMA Sport National Series Finals weekend at the end of November. In addition to exclusive naming rights, ROMA Sport’s sponsorship of the series will see them provided with branding and player engagement opportunities at all tournaments as the company continues to build its profile in the sport following the launch of their first ever wheelchair tennis specific sports chair last year.

Agilitymagazine | 2

The 2017 events attracted a total of 230 entries across the series, with the level of interest continuing to grow. Liz Terry, disability competitions manager at the Tennis Foundation, said: “We are delighted ROMA Sport have extended their sponsorship of the National Series. Their support last year really helped us raise the profile and awareness of the events and encourage more wheelchair tennis plays to get involved in competitions.”

England skipper bowled over ENGLAND cricket stars Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have backed a new disability cricket programme launched by the Lord’s Taverners. England Test captain Root was joined by team-mate Bairstow to help launch Super1s – a national project that will allow young disabled people the chance to play regular cricket. Root said: “It’s great that the Lord’s Taverners are opening the sport up to people who may not have been able to play before. “The more we can do that and the more people we can get involved, it can only be good for the game.” Building on the success of the project in London which has been running since 2013, the new Super1s programme will not just deliver in all 32 boroughs of the capital. Youngsters in Manchester

and Birmingham are already enjoying weekly cricket with the project set to be rolled out in more areas across the UK over the next 12 months. The Lord’s Taverners is the UK’s leading youth cricket and disability sports charity, dedicated to giving disadvantaged and disabled young people a sporting chance. Super 1s gives young disabled people aged 12-25 the chance to play cricket regularly.

CWBA triumph SHEFFIELD STEELERS and CWBA met at the British Wheelchair Basketball’s National Championships to decide the first victor of the new format Lord’s Taverners Junior League. Both teams had completed the season of league games and play-offs at the Elite 8s undefeated. In a nail-biter of a game, the Sheffield side went into half-time ahead by two points. The Coventry team responded in the second half, taking both the third and fourth quarters and winning 54-41 to net Junior League glory in fine style. Sheffield Steelers head coach, and GB Paralympian, Kev Hayes commented: “Our players gave it their all – they worked hard right up until the final whistle. They are an example of the quality of players that are now progressing through our Lord’s Taverners Junior League.”

Veteran boosted by handbike donation store. He was hoping to receive funding for a handbike for around a year before Ottobock contacted Blesma with the offer for the freeof-charge equipment - and Franklin jumped at the chance to receive his own bike. He said: “I am really excited to be able to get out handbiking after trying it some time ago at Headley Court. “I hope to train for the Invictus Games in the future, so this is a great boost for my fitness.”

OTTOBOCK have donated two handbikes to Blesma - an armed forces non-profit charity supporting limbless veterans in the UK for the duration of their lives. The first of the Wolturnus Antaras handbikes was given to Blesma member Nick Franklin, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a below-the-knee amputee. After leaving the military, Franklin has been spending time with his family as well as working in a DIY and home improvement

Agilitymagazine | 3

A golden Opportunity

British Rowing is on the lookout for the next generation of Paralympic GREAT BRITAIN is the most successful Paralympic rowing nation since the sport made its debut at Beijing 2008, winning six gold and two bronze medals, including an historic three golds from the four events at Rio 2016. You may think it’s a bit of a leap to go from novice to Paralympic champion in just two years, but the coaches and support staff at British Rowing have a track record of delivering just such success. And this time round they are especially

keen to recruit a female for the PR1 single sculls – an event in which the athlete can only use their arms and shoulders to propel the boat down the 2,000m course. Tom Dyson, British Rowing’s Chief Coach for the Paralympic programme, says: “This is a fantastic opportunity for someone to come in and challenge themselves to be one of the best Para-rowers in the world. “We don’t expect potential candidates to have any rowing experience, but have Agilitymagazine | 44

the motivation to learn the technique, a commitment to working hard and a love of spending time outdoors.” Athletes in the PR1 classification may have experienced a spinal cord injury, or double leg amputation above the knee, resulting in limited sitting balance or impaired hip function. The GB Rowing Team Paralympic squad trains full time between the National Training Centre at Caversham, near Reading,

“This is a fantastic opportunity for someone to come in and challenge themselves to be one of the best Para-rowers in the world.”

Former Great Britain PR1 sculler Rachel Morris, who won gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games

c rowing champions, with places at Tokyo 2020 still up for grabs and Bisham Abbey. It trains alongside GB’s Olympic programme with a full-time and specialist coaching and support team ensuring each athlete receives the guidance and support to excel both on and off the water. Benjamin Pritchard, a recent recruit to the Para-rowing Development Squad as a PR1 athlete, says he loves the freedom that rowing provides him, having been left unable to walk following a cycling accident in 2016.

“I can’t say that I loved rowing from the first time I tried it, because I hated it. But it was the fact that while I was in hospital it gave me something to compete at and I wanted to push myself,” he said. “The main reason why I liked rowing more than other sports is that it got me out of the wheelchair, and that’s the biggest thing for me. In all the other sports I tried I would still be in the chair, and being new to the chair I didn’t like it. Rowing allows me to get out of Agilitymagazine | 45

my chair and feel more free.” Just over a year on from his first training session on the water, Pritchard was competing with some of the best Para-rowers in the world at the Gavirate International Regatta, finishing fifth in a strong field. So, if you’d like to get into Para-rowing, visit for more details and to register your interest. Read Rowing & Regatta magazine for the sport’s latest news.w

Agility has linked up with Swim England to find out more about their su A QUIET, peaceful pool may not be the image often conjured up when thinking of children’s swimming lessons. But that’s exactly the calm, inviting environment that has been created at a Derbyshire leisure centre, specifically for youngsters with autism. Despite already striving to provide inclusive classes, the team at the Healthy Living Centre in Staveley recognised that children with an autism spectrum disorder were often still struggling to get what they

needed from the lessons. The team set about six months of research, planning and additional training. They launched specific autism-friendly swimming lessons earlier this year. The sessions aim to create a welcoming, sensory-friendly environment. They don’t play music, dim the overhead lights, lower the blinds and use the underwater lighting. Katie White has been a swim teacher at the leisure centre, run by Chesterfield Agilitymagazine | 46

Borough Council, for 10 years. She explained: “We realised that for children with autism, the Learn to Swim Programme could be a tough environment to cope with. It’s loud and there are a lot of distractions. “We started by taking away those outside influences and providing as calm an environment as possible. This allows the children to just get in and enjoy the water. “Our additional training gave us some practical tips and tools such as the importance of being consistent with both

Calm waters

“Every child deserves the chance to learn to swim. We are just making little changes to ensure they can.”

uccessful swimming lessons for children with autism our language and the format of the lesson. “For example, I always end the lesson by telling the children they can have five minutes of free time to play with their choice of equipment, then we do a 10 second countdown, that regular routine then becomes familiar. Visual demonstrations are also really useful as is the flexibility of having two instructors for each group.” The classes are proving to be extremely popular, especially with eight-year-old Jack

Drury. Jack’s mum, Dawn Allen, explained: “I’d wanted Jack to learn to swim for a long time but I just knew the lessons I’d seen weren’t going to be suitable for him. Then we went on a family holiday to Butlin’s and I realised he was quite frightened of the pool. “That’s when I started looking for appropriate classes and found these at Staveley. He’s been to four lessons now and he loves it. He doesn’t want to get out at the end. He’s so enthusiastic, he’s always Agilitymagazine | 47

asking when he can go again. “I think the main thing is he really likes the instructor but they’ve set the whole environment up to help. They have small groups which means the teachers can get to know their individual needs. The music is turned off and the lights are turned down. “We’re going back to Butlin’s after this block of lessons and I’m really looking forward to seeing the difference in him. It’s also a big relief to know that he’s working towards being safe in the water.”w

Project Showcase

The Hive, Ely Sport England’s input has ensured Ely’s impressive new £13.5million leisure centre is truly ‘accessible OPENED just last month, Ely’s new leisure facility, The Hive, is an example of a real team effort. Combining the vision of East Cambridgeshire District Council with Mace’s project management expertise and its associated team of architects, designers and contractors results in much more than just a project delivered on time and to budget. A key philosophy has been at the heart of The Hive, as Mace senior project manager Paul Robertson explained: “This market is continuously changing and we need to adapt,” he said.

“That comes from making facilities as accessible as possible. The research and development in the design of leisure centres – and making sure they really are accessible for all – is something that is vitally important to communities.” As Robertson mentioned, Sport England have played an integral part in the scheme. In addition to allocating £1.5million of lottery funding, the organisation have provided essential design guidance throughout the project. This has resulted in a high-quality facility Agilitymagazine | 48

boasting an eight-lane 25m swimming pool accompanied by a learner pool with a movable floor. These are complemented by a 120-station gym, two activity studios, a fourcourt sports hall and 3G artificial football pitch. “We had a great team from Sport England on the project” said Robertson. “They provided design guidance throughout and engaged in conversations about potential deviations as sometimes a feature or design is not right for an area or specific project. “It was the ideal forum to have those conversations and we were fortunate enough

for all’ that some of our team members supported the preparation of the design for Sport England. The design team are engaging with Sport England on a regular basis and know exactly what they should be designing from the outset.” Within every aspect of the design and its facilities, ensuring accessibility for all users has been a key driver. Extensive consultation with the Disability Forum helped steer the design and ensure the team were on the right track. As with most new leisure facilities, the pool

area is the most visible example. “The council have a movable floor in the teaching pool and also have a platform lift to the main pool,” Robertson commented. “We have locations for a movable hoist as well that can be positioned in different areas of the larger pool. “There is a changing places facility in the changing room and two lifts. Having those is vital – if one breaks down you’ve still got the other one for users. “Away from the pool, the weights area and fitness suites are designed to accommodate wheelchair users and disabled people in Agilitymagazine | 49

terms of the amount of space and widened door entrances. It’s been really well thoughtout and is a prime example of how a community leisure centre should work.” Further flexibility has been built into the learner pool itself – making the facility a suitable option for swimming lessons for children with autism or other sensitive requirements. Glazed screens and integral blinds have been incorporated to enable this smaller pool – and its changing areas – to be separated from the main pool area for use by one group.

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“We’re actively encouraging this design in a number of leisure centre projects we are involved in,” said Robertson. “It is always based on need and demand and whilst we did discuss not including that initially, following a range of workshops the team and client decided it was right to keep that flexibility to cater for certain groups. “We’re seeing more and more innovations and ideas like that within leisure centre projects. The disability forums are valuable in getting people’s feedback. They’re experienced in what the current market is like and what the needs are. Some of the questions that crop up are very challenging and take a great deal of expertise to address, which can only be a good thing.”

“The disability forums are valuable in getting people’s feedback. They’re experienced in what the current market is like and what the needs are.” Discussing Mace’s involvement in the wider project, Robertson added: “When we came onboard some of the concept design was already complete, so the brief was clear by the council in terms of what it needed to deliver. They knew they wanted a 25m eightlane pool and the facility mix was defined, so that was relatively straightforward. “The biggest pressure, from a council point of view, was on programme and budget. We were very fortunate that we were not only able to deliver on both of those goals, but see such a high quality delivered throughout. “In fact, some of the facilities provided are over and above the original brief. For instance, the council and operator have been provided with extra meeting rooms and generally a bigger facility that can really help the operations side of things moving forward.” Agilitymagazine | 51

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“We worked with reliable consultants and subcontractors to ensure a quality project was delivered that everyone can and will be proud of for many years to come.” Commenting on the strengths of The Hive’s design and build, Robertson is clear that teamwork has been a key factor – perhaps fittingly for a sports project. He explained: “We’ve worked with the likes of Space & Place (architects); DDA (M&E design), Pellikaan (contractors) and Sport England on a number of previous schemes. That makes a massive difference and adds value. “The reason that this project ran so well was because of the relationships and trust within the team, and the ability to challenge one another in an environment that was in the best interests of the project. There were no egos involved – it was all about delivering

the very best for East Cambridgeshire District Council.” He concluded: “Since The Hive has opened we’ve taken other local authorities around the centre and they’ve seen the value that has been delivered.” “We’ve set a level of standard for cost, programme and quality and the specialism and experience of each of the team members cannot be underplayed in this. “We’ve delivered this project thanks to an extremely efficient design team and credit to the designers, and to Pellikaan and the team for delivering such a high-quality facility.” w Agilitymagazine | 54

THE TEAM SPORT ENGLAND Charles Johnston, property director “Tackling inactivity is a major priority of our new strategy which is why we were pleased to be able to support the development of Ely Leisure Centre. This exciting multi–sport facility will encourage more people to lead healthier and more active lifestyles. “The Lottery funding allows sport and physical activity to become an accessible option for even more people while those already active and playing sport can enjoy a better experience.” THE CLIENT Councillor David Ambrose-Smith, chair of the community services committee, East Cambridgeshire District Council “This is a really exciting project for the whole of East Cambs as well as the city of Ely. The addition of the leisure centre to the new leisure village broadens the options for people to visit the area.”

THE OPERATOR Daryl Emes, Cambridgeshire partnership manager, GLL “GLL are extremely proud to be the operator of The Hive Leisure Centre and we are looking forward to getting more people in East Cambridgeshire more active, more often. As a social enterprise, we support local communities with affordable and accessible leisure programmes. “Working in partnership with all the stakeholders on the project has been both rewarding and enjoyable and the facilities that have been delivered are first class.” THE CONSULTANT Chris Marriott, director of sports & leisure facilities, The Sports Consultancy “The council were very wise in spending time from the outset working out what they needed and what they could afford to provide in terms of the scope and scale of their new leisure centre. Agilitymagazine | 55

“The Sports Consultancy helped them build a strong evidence base to inform officer and councillor decision making. This meant they could move forward with the peace of mind that they had a deliverable, affordable and appropriate scheme. This really is great case study of how to deliver a successful scheme from start to finish.” THE CONTRACTOR Corné Van Mook, project director, Pellikaan Construction “We worked with reliable consultants and subcontractors to ensure a quality project was delivered that everyone can and will be proud of for many years to come. “Value engineering and design development were essential for this project, and we worked closely together with Roberts Limbrick Architects to achieve the best possible value for money whilst staying true to the concept design, which was the basis for the project at tender stage.”

Agility Magazine // Issue 2 // June 2018