Leeds Wheelchair Racing Clinics Inspire a Final Push


Report by Paul Moseley (April 2011)


Saturday 2nd April saw the finale of the 2010/11 Leeds wheelchair racing clinics. The last of the 6 training sessions was held at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds from 12pm- 3pm. This successful series of sessions was supported through the funding of the Leeds Athletics Network and also Leeds City Council. In addition, the sessions were also accredited by the 2012 inspire mark. Projects and events across the UK are recognised through the inspire programme and are awarded the inspire mark, part of 2012’s branding family. The Leeds wheelchair racing clinics are one of a kind and so, the only wheelchair racing sessions with this accreditation in the UK.


The sessions catered for a range of different wheelchair athletes and so offered benefits for all capabilities in the sport, from novice to elite. The coaches worked with beginners to the sport, developing basic pushing technique and positioning in a racing chair, but also offered training sessions and support to more advanced athletes. The more advanced athletes also provided ideas and support for those who attended the ‘come and try’ sessions. These athletes included Double World Champion Hannah Cockroft and Great British athlete Matthew Hickling, who inspired new comers and acted as sporting idols for those younger participants.  Athletes came from around the country to attend these events.

Hickling said about the sessions:


“The racing clinics have really helped me with my training and they have been especially motivating. I also think that they are really good for new comers as it allows them to get to know what the sport is like.”


The wheelchair racing clinics attracted participants from clubs in Wakefield and Cleethorpes as well as attracting existing wheelchair racers from Halifax, Gateshead and athletes from Leeds City’s own athletics club.


With Leeds City athletics club being the only club in Leeds (and the only club for miles around Leeds) that offers training opportunities for wheelchair racers, the sessions have attracted new members to come and join to be a member of the club, opening these athletes up to new experiences and uncovering new talent that could one day make another Paralympic champion from Leeds!


However the ‘come and try’ ethos that ran with the sessions was also opened up to coach development. Again, this side of the sessions attracted attention from all over the Country, with athletes bringing coaches from their own sports clubs to learn more about wheelchair racing. It also attracted the attention of the UK Athletics Paralympic Athletics Head Coach, Peter Eriksson, who came along and viewed some of the sessions to approve what was being delivered. Eriksson has coached Paralympic racing greats such as Chantel Peticlerc, 14 time Paralympic gold medallist and is now coaching both double world champion Hannah Cockroft and world record holder Shelly Woods. Cockroft said about the sessions:


“Holding these wheelchair racing clinics is opening up the opportunities for disabled people to get involved with sport. Finding a way to get involved with Paralympic sport can be very difficult and off putting and so if these sessions encourage just one person to take part in wheelchair racing then they were successful!”


Eriksson, along with other UK Athletics affiliated coaches, passed on knowledge and advice from their own experiences within the sport to the seven coaches that attended, eager to learn more about the sport. Graham Cockroft attended the coaching development side of the sessions, he commented:


“To find an athletics coach who will open up and tell you about their ideas on training and pushing techniques is very rare. To have this opportunity to learn more about the sport has been fantastic and I hope to take away what skills I have learnt to help my daughter progress more in her training.”


If you are interested in coming to try wheelchair racing, training sessions are held on Thursday nights, 7pm- 8pm, at John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds. For more information please visit: http://www.leedscityathleticclub.org/