By Scott Mills
Over the course of the year, 2016 has seen many successes both on and off the track for the Weir Archer Academy.
From helping in the local community and raising money at charity events to winning gold medals on the international stage at the IPC European Championships, many of the clubs athletes have excelled and the people of the local communities have also benefitted.
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing with a year full of glittering successes for the Weir Archer team.
It has also been one full of grit, determination and hard graft to fight through incredibly tough times to get to those World Records, personal bests and podium finishes.
Throughout the year, everyday has brought with it a new challenge for the Academy’s head coach Jenny Archer MBE.
Whether it be an injured athlete, the battle against the frost-bitten steep hills of Richmond Park in sub-zero temperatures or beating the world’s best to win races, Archer believes it has all been made possible by a great team spirit and the help of parents, coaches, friends and family.
“This year everyone has performed to their best from our top senior athletes right the way down to our juniors,” reflects Archer.
“Whilst this season has been rather successful, none of this would have been made possible without all the support and help from the Academy’s family and friends.
“Everyone has been superb and we have had some new coaches coming in to help like Scott Mills and Jake Foster who have been great helping myself and Dave Lucas to coach the guys.
“All the parents have been amazing this year as well and our training sessions probably wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as they had without the likes of Andy Spencer, Gavin Labrooy, John Smith Senior and Kevin Woods who maintain the chairs and all our equipment.
“So I would just like to say a huge thank you to all of them and together we can strive to have an even better year in 2017.”
With the help of our athletes and the family members and friends that back the academy, team Weir Archer has also managed to support their local communities in a number of ways throughout 2016.
One of the many standout moments was the Academy’s support for the Poppy Legion Appeal, by raising over £100 to show their respect and to help those who fought to give us a better tomorrow.
On a soaking wet Saturday morning in Richmond Park, our athletes, parents, coaches and cyclists embarked on a 5k run wearing their Poppy Appeal t-shirts in order to raise both money and awareness for a charity that is so close to so many.
This year has also seen our ever-inspiring athlete John Smith lend a hand to local communities by putting himself forward for public speaking to motivate and inspire our country’s future generations.
In the month of November, we also saw some superb work to raise money for the Academy’s charity not only at the Royal Borough of Kingston Rotary Club’s Firework Display but also at the Pen Pond Dog Walking Group’s annual Christmas dinner party.
Due to an extremely successful raffle (made possible by a lot of hard work from Tanya Gallagher and Jackie Woods to name a few) at the Firework Display, the academy’s charity managed to raise over £500, thanks to the publics generosity.
The Pen Ponds Dog Walking Group, who have helped and supported the Academy every day in Richmond Park for many years now also raised over £300 for the Academy at their annual Christmas dinner.
On the track, it didn’t take the Weir Archer Academy long to announce a major success on the world stage in a season that would be full of personal bests and podium finishes from both the senior and junior athletes.
Just three months into 2016, the Academy’s mentor and one of Britain’s most decorated athletes, David Weir CBE made history on the clubs warm weather training trip to Portugal.
With over 10 of the Academy’s athletes training in Portugal alongside many of the club’s friends, families and cyclists, Weir managed to set a new World Record when he raced in the EDP Lisbon Half-Marathon recording a time of 00:42:23.
Astonishingly the success didn’t stop there, when Weir Archer’s Will Smith, Mo Jomni, Justin Levene, Jabari Knight, Mickey Bushell, Jamie Carter and Martyna Snopek also recorded amazingly fast times placing them all inside of the top 20.
But the amazing feats for Weir did not stop there.
In fact, the Weir-Wolf made history again in May, when he achieved one of the most amazing achievements by beating Sir Roger Bannister’s long-standing four-minute mile.
In front of his home crowd in London, Weir became the first man to beat Bannister’s record by recording a time of 00:02:57 in the Westminster Mile.
Under the watchful eye of Archer, who continued to put the athletes through their paces in an extremely intense and tough training regime, even more achievements started to follow.
On the international stage during the IPC European Championships in Grosseto, David Weir CBE, Mickey Bushell MBE and Mo Jomni managed to record six golds, two silvers and two bronze medals between them.
The trio also managed to be selected for Team GB’s 2016 Paralympic squad alongside the club’s F32 Club Thrower Abbie Hunnisett and whilst the Paralympics may not have gone as planned for these high-achieving and highly-aspiring athletes, they all managed to make the finals in some of their events with Hunnisett finishing her event in an amazing fourth place.
The Academy’s junior athletes were also progressing through the season making some exceptional achievements along the way.
Eden Rainbow-Cooper and Jamie Edwards not only won medals at the Paralympic School Games in Brazil but they also both managed to make progress through British Athletics’ schemes for the country’s future Paralympians.
To add to this, Rainbow-Cooper also managed to excel at several Diamond League meetings in Switzerland where she competed against some of the world’s best wheelchair athleles, also winning medals along the way.
As the season neared its closing stages, many of the Academy’s athletes had also started to become recognised for all of their successes and hard-work throughout the 2016 season.
Whilst Weir, Bushell, Jomni and Hunnisett were all selected for the 2016-17 Paralympic World Class Performance Programme ahead of the 2017 World Championships in London, [John] Smith, Labrooy, Sheik and [Will] Smith were also placed on one of British Athletics’ programmes.
A great year was also capped with plenty of personal awards as well.
With Morgan Woods winning the Herald Community Sports Star in Worthing, Eden Rainbow-Cooper claiming the Michael Austin Harlick award in Hampshire and Jamie Edwards receiving the Male Achiever of the Year award from the Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership, the academy didn’t stop there.
There was also an Eileen Gray Award to be given by the Kingston Borough Council to a coach or athlete that has inspired, motivated and helped others to achieve their goals.
Sometimes sacrificing her free-time to help and be there for her athletes and train them to an exceptional standard no matter whether it is rain, snow or shine in the early hours of the morning, it was great to see Jenny Archer MBE get some recognition for the amazing work she has done in athletics.
And whilst many could forgive the Academy for reflecting on all of the achievements that the 2016 season brought to them, many of the athletes including coach Archer are already working hard to make 2017 even better.