Ben Oliver: Wheelchair racer 'learnt how to race watching YouTube'

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Ben Oliver
Ben Oliver only started racing having watched the 2012 Paralympics

Wheelchair athlete Ben Oliver is hoping to qualify for next year's IPC World Championships after watching videos on the internet to learn how to race.

The 20-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy, set a new European record in the T33 800m in May.

"I saw athletes like David Weir and Hannah Cockroft on YouTube and wondered how you did it.

"I got the basics down from the videos and saw how they pushed and were sat in the chair," he told BBC Sport.

"I started pushing my normal day chair and was asking about it and people told me I needed special gloves and that I needed to punch the wheel rather than push it.

"Then last year I found a coach I asked him if he wanted to help me, he seemed pretty keen and we've been doing it ever since."

Bodmin-based Oliver's hopes of a Paralympics place in Rio are low, as the 800m is not raced in his category and he is instead having to focus on the 100m.

Paralympic wheelchair categories
T33-T34 - Athletes with cerebral palsy. Ben Oliver is in T33 while Hannah Cockroft is in the T34 class and has a greater level of mobility.
T51-T54 - Athletes with spinal cord injuries. T51 has the least mobility, working up to T54. Multi-Paralympic gold-medallist David Weir is in T54.

But the University of Worcester student is currently ranked fifth in the country, with a best time almost two seconds slower than the fastest man over the distance this year, so he will have his work cut out.

It is a similar situation for the 2017 World Championships, which will be staged on home soil at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.

"I'd love to do the 100m at the worlds, and if I do make it I'd be really happy," he said.

"If they did an 800m I'd be really happy. I understand that they cannot have every distance is every category, but for an athlete that's in my class it's annoying.

"You can't choose your class, if I was T34 I'd be over the moon, but I'm not.

"But I've got another year to develop myself now as well. I can really strive to get there at the minute, and that would be my best option really."