By Scott Mills
As the sun begins to rise on a cold, frost-bitten Saturday morning in Richmond Park, many athletes of the Weir Archer academy have already been put through half an hour of intense training by their coach Jenny Archer MBE, when most would still be in bed dreaming about success rather than going out and working for it.
Amongst those in Archer’s ranks putting in the graft on some of the most unforgiving hills in the country, is the hard-working Paralympic gold medallist Mickey Bushell MBE.
“I love it here, it really feels like home,” Bushell states as he takes a well-earned sip of water.
“When you keep training in these cold and damp winter conditions it really motivates you and it’s the first winter I have spent training back here since 2011, so although it’s hard, it is good fun.”
However, it has not always been fun for the Telford-based athlete.
In fact, since winning a gold medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in the T53 100m sprint things have been extremely tough.
In 2015, the hard-working Paralympian who is used to overcoming tough challenges had to face one of the toughest yet, this time for his life.
Only minutes away from death due to a urinary tract infection, Bushell managed to show the same grit and determination that he has displayed in all his years of racing to pull through and remarkably also claim a place in Team GB’s Paralympic squad for Rio at the same time.
“When I look back on this past season as a whole, I think it was extremely tough,” reflects Bushell.
“When you nearly die the year before it is not a good start to it, especially when that means you only have six months preparation which isn’t good either when you build up for going into the Para’s.
“So for near enough the whole season, I was just sort of trying to get through it basically and compete in each race the best I could.”
For most people, the fact Bushell even managed to claim a spot in Great Britain’s Paralympic team when he was fighting against the odds to stay alive is an unbelievable achievement in itself, let alone reach the 2016 T53 100m final in Brazil.
However, in Bushell’s eyes the sixth-place finish in the Paralympics was seen somewhat as a failure which isn’t surprising coming from an athlete whose hard-work and sacrifices are driven by his motivation to be the best.
“Although every Paralympics is another new experience, this one was very different,” Bushell explained.
“Though things didn’t quite go to plan and you can’t win every race, I wasn’t happy and I felt I could’ve done a lot better.
“I think mentally I wasn’t there and physically I probably wasn’t there either. I just wasn’t well going into it and I came sixth so I think that was a hard lesson I was taught really.
“But you know, life goes on and now I have just got to put my head down and work hard and look forward to the next race now.”
Having held British records in the T53 100, 200, 400 and 800 metre sprints, the Brit has already set his sights on not only competing at the 2017 World Championships in London, but also reclaiming his spot as the best T53 racer in the world.
Despite wanting to compete in the World Championships and become the World number one, Bushell knows there are aspects he needs to work very hard on to get there, something he believes is possible especially when he is being coached by one of the best in the world.
“Next year, I want to get back to being number one which as an athlete is the only goal I think you should aspire to especially when you’ve been there before.
“Since coming back from the Paralympics and having a few weeks off just to recoup and get my head straight again, training has been a lot better and the main thing is to start getting ready for the Worlds next year,” Bushell states.
“To do this I know I need to get quicker, fitter and a lot more powerful and I know that with Jenny I will improve quite a lot on this as well.
“We’ve gone into a lot of that which is good, so hopefully next season I can get back to winning ways.”
Having achieved a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and then a gold at the 2012 home games in London, many would forgive Bushell for leaving the Paralympic stage after achieving his dream.
But with this year’s Paralympics in Rio being described by the self-proclaimed UFC fan as a ‘disaster’, he refuses to go out of the Paralympic circuit on a low.
“I definitely think I will go for Toyko in 2020,” the Paralympian states with intent.
“I can’t leave the Paralympic cycle now especially after Rio.
“I think there is too much work to be done and I have more goals I want to get, so for the next four years I am going to fully apply myself and give one-hundred percent to make this happen.”
Whilst Bushell begins another four year cycle of hard-work, sacrifices and commitment to work towards his goals, his love and respect for everyone at the Weir Archer academy is evident.
Particularly for one of the teams voluntary cyclists, Sue Moran who often houses the Shrewsbury-born racer when he is being put through his paces by coach Jenny Archer MBE who is known as ‘the beast’.
“For me, she is like Bradley Wiggins on that bike, the Lewis Hamilton so to speak. She is better than David Weir when she is on the bike and she should win an award,” Bushell jokes.
“No but in all seriousness, Jenny has built a great team and Sue is just one of the many guys that give up their time to help the academy and for me personally has been a huge help when I am down training with the team.”
Like many of the other academy’s athletes, Bushell’s future in the sport looks promising and with the hard-work and dedication already shown not only by the academy’s athletes but the sacrifices made by coach Jenny Archer MBE, the future is already looking extremely bright for the Weir Archer team.