Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire wheelchair racer in Paralympics appeal

Mel Nicholls, wheelchair racer
Image caption Mel Nicholls suffered three strokes by the age of 30

A Gloucestershire wheelchair racer is appealing for help in a bid to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Mel Nicholls, 32, is currently training with a borrowed wheelchair and needs financial support to buy her own.

The athlete from Bishop's Cleeve said her chair was old and did not fit, which was stopping her from reaching her full potential.

She said she believed she could take part in next year's Paralympics if she had the right equipment.

Ms Nicholls suffered two strokes in her 20s, which she recovered from, but a third and more serious stroke when she was 30 left her disabled.

'Real passion'

She lost the use of her left leg and some of her left arm as well as suffering with severe co-ordination and balance problems.

"I have always been an active and sporty person and even though I am now disabled, I do not see myself as any less able," she said.

"I have found a real passion for wheelchair racing as it's very similar to running which I always used to love to do so much."

In October 2010, Ms Nicholls was classified by UK Athletics as a T33 athlete - a wheelchair racing group separate from the para and tetraplegia T52-T54 groups.

Based on current training times, Mel and her coach - Ed Grazier - are hoping for a world top 10 ranking for the combined T33/34 class.

"Mel is doing incredibly well but we know that, with her own racing wheelchair, she could do even better," said Mr Grazier.

"She's borrowing a 10-year-old chair built for another athlete. That's not ideal for optimum pushing position or modern specifications."

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