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Nicholls’ sights firmly set on Paris

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Paratriathlon wheelchair athlete, Mel Nicholls, is hoping 2024 will see her qualify for her third Paralympic Games, after competing in wheelchair racing at London 2012 and Rio 2016. And she comes into the new season on the back of a solid winter training block.

She said: “Winter training’s gone really well compared to last winter, where I was carrying an injury. It feels like I've been able to put in an equal amount of swim, bike and run which has been reassuring and really enjoyable.  

“The wet weather and local flooding has made it harder to get on the roads, but going away on winter camp has really helped my bike training and I've been really enjoying the swimming, outside and inside.  

“And I’m back on the track with my wheelchair Racing Academy as well. My plan is to get back to where I was when I was a track sprinter. I think it’s really important to have that ability in the run part of triathlon, particularly with the multiple laps and the dead turns we have to do.” 

Nicholls’ winter training leads into to the World Triathlon Para Cup in Abu Dhabi, a race that kicks off a season with extra pressure given it’s a Paralympic Games year.  

“The first race you always get some nerves and it’s a chance to blow the cobwebs away. I feel in a good place and my training is in a really good place. With racing there’s so much you can control and there's a certain amount you can't control. I’ve just got to focus on the bits I can control and execute a good quality race. It’s a bit of a practice ahead of Tasmania [World Triathlon Para Series Devonport]. 
 
“Obviously qualification for Paris is the immediate goal. Then to be in the best place possible going into Paris and to medal would be the absolute ultimate. I’m looking at giving myself the best chance possible to do that. 

“There is added pressure from myself and the team around me. It’s about racing but it’s also about qualification, so you need to do well to even have a chance of getting to Paris. When I get to racing, I will enjoy it and that has to be my priority – to have fun.” 

Part of that qualification journey will take her around the world before bringing Nicholls back to home soil for World Triathlon Para Series Swansea, where she won a bronze medal last year.  

Talking about Swansea, she said: “Oh, I love it, It's great. With triathlon there are opportunities to race in the UK, which is wonderful because you know it's showcasing triathlon and particularly paratriathlon. And with it being a World Series and the third time that we have had the World Para Series in Swansea, it’s bringing the world’s best to Wales, to Britain.   

“We can show them what we can put on, even if the weather decides to do what it wants. That’s fine, Swansea will still put on a show.” 

As well as elite paratriathletes chasing down Paris qualification, the event also hosts the British Triathlon Para Super Series and four junior participation races. This inclusion element is something Nicholls enjoys and is something she holds close to her heart as inclusion officer at her local club. 

“I think that's really good, having that inclusion aspect,” she explained.  “You've got the Super Series event before our race, so you've got athletes potentially coming through or new athletes interested in paratriathlon racing, and then after they race, they get to watch the elite athletes.  

“You have to be out there racing for them to understand it and for people to want to get involved. They can come and talk to us and we’re all cheering for each other – it's a great environment. It’s one thing seeing it on TV or on the internet, but I think being there in person is really something else and so important. Supporting the next generation is definitely something I enjoy.” 

To learn more about World Triathlon Para Series Swansea and how to get involved click here. If you’re interested in getting involved in paratriathlon, our first Talent ID Day of 2024 takes place on 14 April in Loughborough. Click here to learn more.

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