Source: British Triathlon

Tewkesbury Paralympian recognised for social impact

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Paralympian Melissa Nicholls has been nominated for the Social Impact Award at the PLx Awards, hosted by UK Sport.

The two-time Paralympian and endurance world record holder, from Tewkesbury, has aligned her position as an international athlete to giving back to the community throughout her career.

In 2008, Nicholls suffered her third, and most debilitating, stroke which left her unable to walk unassisted and limiting the use of the left side of her body. She watched the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games from her hospital bed, determined to compete at the next edition in front of a home crowd. Four years later, she secured qualification for the British team, competing in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, reaching the T34 200m wheelchair final, just 15 months after taking up wheelchair racing.

Since her impressive rise so soon after her stroke, and early on in her wheelchair racing career, Nicholls went on to achieve a bronze and a silver in the European championships and become a World silver medallist. She also broke the 1500m world record twice in two years, in 2013 and again in 2014.

Following the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where she again reached the final, Nicholls embarked on a new adventure, gaining selection in 2017 onto the GB Paracycling Team, claiming medals on the world and British stages in her first year. This subsequently led to Nicholls joining Tewkesbury Triathlon Club. Since taking part in her first paratriathlon event in 2022, the now 46-year-old is continuing to enjoy a successful career in the sport, including golds at World Triathlon Para Cup Alhandra.

With adventure deep-rooted inside of her, Nicholls also set a world record in 2019 after hand cycling the famous Land’s End to John O’Groats route in less than seven days. In 2021, only a year after having a 5kg ovarian tumour removed, Nicholls handcycled 4,800 miles around the coast of the UK in 75 days unsupported – the furthest distance ridden by a handcycle.

Alongside her successful sporting career, Nicholls now volunteers as an Inclusion Manager and Coach for her local triathlon club in Tewkesbury with the primary intention to help others who, like herself, must overcome great adversity to compete in the sport they love. Her drive to increase participation and accessibility to high quality coaching in these demographics is what makes her a contender for the Social Impact Award.

Nicholls also set up Community Interest Company (CIC) called Dream Big Explore to help people who have been put in challenging situations to be able to harness the power of sport and fitness. Alongside this, she partnered with the Ordnance Survey as an OS Maps Ambassador, helping to get people outside and active for both mental and physical health purposes at its core.

In response to the nomination, Nicholls said: “I’m really honoured to be nominated for the PLx 2023 Awards. To be honest, I was a little surprised that anyone actually knew what I was doing, but that’s a really important part about this. What I’m doing and what many people are doing – it’s being noticed by people outside of our sporting communities.

“More people are more aware of the positive change within our sports, but also, people are more aware of the positive change that still needs to happen That is impact – that’s a start. The next thing is action.”

To find out more about the PLx Awards, hosted by UK Sport and powered by The National Lottery, visit