By Scott Mills
On a cold frost-bitten Monday evening in November, most 15 year-olds would usually be glued to their games consoles or watching the latest episode of their favourite television programme having just finished a hard day of studying at school.
However, this is not the case for Weir Archer Academy’s aspiring-Paralympian Graham Spencer.
When the T54 wheelchair athlete isn’t studying hard, he can be found at Kingsmeadow athletics track, trying to improve himself by constantly grafting and pushing himself to his limits alongside some of the country’s top senior athletes such as Mo Jomni, John Smith and David Weir.
In fact on this particular evening, despite still being a junior, Spencer has just completed a tough training session on the rollers giving fellow senior team-mates Jabari Knight and Mo Jomni a run for their places on the senior circuit.
Finishing the session exhausted with sweat rolling down his forehead, the 15 year-old can still be seen grinning from ear to ear, as he looks forward to a tough winter’s training knowing that hard-work and commitment will get him to where he wants to be in four years’ time.
“I want to go to Tokyo in 2020 but at the moment, I just want to keep training and achieving my times.
“Winter training has been pretty good. I’ve been consistent in hitting my times and making personal bests in training but I know it is only going to get harder as we go on,” Spencer added.
“Even though I want to go to Tokyo 2020 and hopefully more Paralympics after that, for now I am just focusing on getting quicker, stronger and constantly beating my personal bests.”
So whilst this junior athlete dreams of making the Paralympics in four years’ time, he remains very focused and level-headed on what he needs to do in order to make Tokyo a reality.
Training under the watchful eye of his coach Jenny Archer MBE and mentor David Weir CBE, is one of the many reasons Spencer believes he has improved so much in the last four years at the academy.
“It is great because Dave and Jen will push me and make me work really, really hard. I am training alongside so many great guys here and we all work as a team, pushing each other and making each other stronger,” Spencer explained.
“When one of us isn’t feeling right we all communicate and help each other, so it is a really good atmosphere. I actually believe that it is because of that great atmosphere, that I have been able to build more confidence and improve.”
In fact, on the back of a successful season full of personal bests and fast times, the young wheelchair racer is so fascinated by hard-work and training that he is already relishing the chance to re-claim a title he won last season.
“After winter training, I am going to be focusing on the next [London] mini-marathon and then my other competitions after that.
“I won the mini-marathon in the U14 category last season with a time of 14 minutes which was one of the best achievements so far in my career.
“I also got a lot of PB’s in all of my events in the season just gone so whilst it has been good, I am already looking forward to beating them this year.”
Ever since he was in nursery, Spencer has dreamt of competing in a Paralympic Games and his desire to be a wheelchair racer was cemented when he was inspired by David Weir’s heroics at the London 2012 Games.
So whilst the youngster has other interests in science and history, all of his hard-work, sacrifices and commitments to training will continue until he makes his dream of competing in Tokyo 2020 a reality.