By Scott Mills
Before the London 2012 Paralympic Games, head coach of the Weir Archer Academy, Jenny Archer MBE had a vision.
In order to get David Weir CBE and her athletes to the next level she knew that she had to bring in some fresh and innovative ideas.
Having been coached by Welsh International athlete Jim Alford as a young track runner, Archer decided to take one of the many coaching techniques she had learned and adapt it to suit her wheelchair racers.
As a 400 and 800m track runner, Alford would box Archer in between several international male athletes so that she had no choice but to run at their pace.
Applying this idea to Weir before the 2012 Paralympics, Archer made sure that when he was training in Richmond Park, he was surrounded by world class cyclists so that he had no choice but to push through pain barriers and stick to their speed.
Several gold medals, personal bests and world records later, from Weir right through to the junior athletes, the same techniques are still being used at the Academy today and it is no surprise that the team are still reaping in the rewards even in 2016.
Whether it be on an icy Kingsmeadow athletics track or the fog-ridden Richmond Park, the cyclists who give up their free time to voluntarily help our athletes are always there motivating and pushing the guys on to the next level.
With the 2016 season ending full of successes such as personal bests, podium finishes and world records, Pete Capell who is one of the many cyclists that have been working with the team for four years, believes that this year has been one of the best yet.
“For me this year has been particularly rewarding to see the progress that so many of our athletes have made during the year from the relative beginners to the more senior members,” Capell reflects.
“Particularly in such an important year in terms of major events such as the Rio Paralympics and the European Championships.
“I believe that it has been great to see the dedication and effort that our senior athletes have made during the year to achieve inclusion and successes in these events.”
With the amazing support the Academy has seen from friends, family and the local communities, the group in particular have gone from strength to strength and with Archer at the helm, the group have truly developed a determined and ambitious team spirit.
This year the number of athletes at the academy involved in British Athletics programmes for future World Championships and Paralympic Games has grown massively, something Capell believes is down to a combination of graft in training and a great atmosphere that coach Archer has developed.
“This year has really seen a growth in the group and it has been a pleasure to see,” Capell explains.
“The combination of hard work and determination combined with friendship and mutual support between the athletes across a range of ability and experience, is really quite exceptional.
“There has been a very positive spirit of growth and achievement during the year and it is a privilege to be part of a group of athletes, coaching team and helpers that have become one of the best in our sport.”
So as the team continue to train hard over the festive period, one thing is for certain and that everyone at the Academy will try everything in their power to have an even better season in 2017.