ANTHONY GOTTS – WHEELCHAIR ATHLETE ~ guest blog

by Gill Arnott | Dec 17, 2018

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There Be Giants Director – Roger Longden – has known Anthony Gotts for many years, bonding over a love of sport, personal fitness and dogs (both having staffie crosses).

Anthony was a top able-bodied athlete training for 2012 Olympic Games, until a freak accident in 2007, at the age of just 24, left him in wheelchair. Without sponsors the costs relating to wheelchair athletics is prohibitive and Roger was only too happy to step up.   We caught up with Anthony to find out what he’s been up to.

ANTHONY GOTTS – WHEELCHAIR ATHLETE

From the age of 6 I’ve loved athletics, so it was completely devastating when an accident in Finland in 2007 led to major complications and I ended up in a wheelchair. It was a difficult time and it wasn’t until 2010 that I actually looked at what I was doing and where I was heading. I decided to take control.

Luck was in my favour, although at the time back in 2010 I didn’t realise it. I purchased my first ever race wheelchair off eBay.  I was overweight, due to the heavy medication and lack of exercise, tired and depressed. I knew I needed to do something.

When the wheelchair arrived, I sat in it and made plans. What I didn’t realise was that it was a miracle I fit in the chair!  The chances of the wheelchair being suitable for my size and weight was incredibly slim; around 80% of new racing chairs aren’t a fit for me!   I started off slowly but realised that I really enjoyed it, and I was good at it! I trained hard and got fit, lost some weight and made new friends along the way.

Setting a world record

In 2016 I set the world record for a wheelchair race from Lands’ End to John O’Groats.  I set myself the challenge of completing it in 28 days – I finished in 20. This had never been completed before just by arm power alone. The record prior to mine was done in an electric wheelchair and it took 30 days.

Finishing was a massive high – 2 years in the planning and I smashed the record – but when it was over I really wasn’t sure what came next.  I’d written off my back wheels (at a cost of £1,700) completing the challenge and 6 pairs of gloves, which are £170 a pair! I guess I’d lost my mojo and nothing seemed challenging enough, nothing fuelled the fire that got me training.

A big drawback is that race wheelchairs are incredibly expensive and the carbon wheels you need to race competitively are delicate and can’t be repaired if damaged!

That’s about the time that Roger stepped in to help. The sponsorship allowed me to train again.

How the sponsorship helped

I’ve joined The Leisure Trust in Nelson; allowing me to use their track to train using the carbon wheels, without risk of damaging them on the roads.  Without going into too much technical detail the techniques used are different when using spoked wheels to carbon wheels.

I’ve also been able to adapt some spoked wheels; we’ve used plastic sheets cut to size which allows me to use the punch technique for racing wheelchairs.

I now have a gym membership at a gym that is much better equipped for my training needs. I need a lot of upper body strength, so having access to things such as a grappler, battle ropes and monkey bars etc, is a godsend. It’s all about the functional fitness needed to be a great athlete.

2018 and missing the Hawaii Spartan Race!

This year saw a lot of training go to waste! I was sponsored to do the Spartan Race in Hawaii, but the biggest hurricane to ever hit the Island struck and it was abandoned.  I got to San Francisco, but the connecting flight was cancelled!  Another blow but I wasn’t going to let it beat me.

When I got back home I entered the Bury 10K and beat the course wheelchair record by 4 mins.  I also did the Manchester half marathon – which was a difficult race due to the glove material changing (another story!)

What’s happening in 2019?

For 2019 I have a lot to look forward too.   I now have the ability to have specialist gloves built for me with the sponsorship money.  Once I get to train and learn how to push with them I have two marathons to complete.

In Spring 2019 I’m attempting a 12-hour world record. Literally seeing how far I can go in 12 hours. The plan is to do a 24-hour record, but I want to see how my body reacts to 12 first.

I’m also looking forward to 2020!  I have BIG plans – but for now these are under wraps. Watch this space.

I can’t thank Roger enough. Being able to continue with athletics has been extremely important to me. It’s full of ups and downs and daily challenges but I wouldn’t be without it.

Anthony Gotts

Wheelchair Athlete