– Professional Paratriathlete and Motivational Speaker –
“If I can do it, anyone can!”
Melissa Reid is an elite paratriathlete, and the 2013 World Champion. Melissa recently retained her title in the World Aquathon Championships in Edmonton. She lives in Cornwall, south-west England, UK, and is visually impaired. Melissa is blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other. She competes against other athletes with a similar impairment to hers and is accompanied by a guide throughout all three stages of her races – competing on a tandem on the bike leg. She races triathlons in the PT5 category, and athletes who are fully blind receive a time advantage.
Melissa was delighted with her selection, after admitting she only applied for the Hyde Park ITU World Series event in 2011 after having a job application turned down. She says she was refused a lifeguarding job because of her eyesight so she thought to would give triathlon a go.
Melissa has always believed in her ability to compete against non-disabled competitors, constantly placing high on the results and earning several medals in multi-sport races. However, she knows that her disability has been holding her back and she could achieve more through paratriathlon. This was confirmed when she placed second in the ITU World Championships in September 2011.
Before Triathlon, Melissa has previously competed at a high standard in surfing and was sponsored for a number of years. She still surfs in her spare time, but focuses her attention on swimming, cycling and running. Surfing is a great example of cross training though. She has also competed for Cornwall in surf life saving for three years in a number of disciplines. The past three years have been very successful and it would not have been possible without Alice Nicholas and Nicole Walters acting as her guides, her father, Allan Reid, being her coach, and mechanic and her fiancé, Matthew Stone, who has helped her with all her fundraising and publicity.
Melissa has been involved in coaching from a young age and continues to coach and teach at a number of places. She is currently a coach at TR1 in Cornwall, as well as a Beach Lifeguard trainer. She also teaches swimming in Cornwall, gaining her level 2 ASA and Swim America awards. She works with toddlers to adults – people with a phobia of water to international competitors.
In addition to training, competing and coaching, Melissa also works with schools and businesses as a motivational speaker. These talks have happened all across the UK, from small primary school groups to key-noting large business events. Notably she has headlined the Cornwall Hub Awards, speaking to an audience of over 200 leading business professionals. In 2013 she was also invited to be a guest lecturer at the Imperial College London and Cornwall College. Melissa works with her father and coach, Allan Reid, following a dedicated training plan throughout the year.
Melissa has been nominated for and has received a number of awards since she started competing in paratriathlon. She is the Cornwall Sport Partnership’s 2012 Young Coach of the year has been awarded Pirate FM’s Sporting Hero recognition and she was the runner-up in the 220 Triathlon magazine’s Paratriathlete of the Year Award in 2013. She was also shortlisted for the British Triathlon 2013 awards and Sports Coach UK Young Coach of the Year 2013.
The World Champion and RLSB (Royal London Society for Blind People) Ambassador is helping promote RLSB’s Sports without Limits: Active. This Sport England Inclusion Fund backed programme aims to get 100s of blind young people into sport. She will use her own experience and skills to motivate young people to find a sport they love through RLSB and get into regular activity. The charity hopes that through sports, young people can gain confidence, improve communication and team working skills and start to overcome some of the problems caused by sight impairment. These include high levels of unemployment, poverty and isolation.
“My goal is to represent Team GB in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro. Together with my guides, I am training hard to make it. I have previously won gold at the World, European and British Champs,” she says. Melissa wants to use her own story as well as the momentum from the World Championships and upcoming Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games to show that sport can have an incredible impact on a young person’s life in so many ways. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the backing from my sponsors and supporters – Nissan, Saucony, Mako, Tank Cycles, At-Your-Pace, AMSport, Oliver Hughes Physiotherapy and Cycle Logic.”
The World Champion is an ambassador for the The Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) which has existed to stop childhood sightloss becoming a lifelong disability. They don’t just help young people cope with being blind; they help young people live beyond sightloss. Through an expert blend of education, sport, creative and developmental services, delivered in London and the south east, they support blind and partially sighted young people to unleash their potential and live and learn for the life they want. For more information visit www.rlsb.org.uk. Melissa also supports The Cornwall Sports Partnership which is an affiliation of organisations that have joined forces to make sport and physical activity a part of everyday life in Cornwall. For more information please visit www.cornwallsportspartnership.co.uk.
Melissa in her own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
I just try to do my best and enjoy what I am doing. I don’t consider myself as inspirational, but if others feel that from reading my story they get the motivation to achieve something new or attempt that goal they have always been putting off, then that’s a great feeling.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
Triathlon is growing to become one of the most talked about sports in the World. There’s definitely a great feeling competing internationally and meeting athletes from different countries. Although it can be quite expensive to take part, there are races that accommodate different budgets and you don’t have to be an elite athlete to take part.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
I got into triathlons when I was around 16, after getting a bike to cycle to college. I soon realised that being partially sighted was a bit of a hindrance, after ending up under a bus in my first race! I started paratriathlon in 2011, racing in my first ITU race on a touring leant to me by Cycle Logic.
What motivates you in life?
I set myself a number of goals and make sure that I achieve them.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
Give it a tri!
Who inspires you? Why?
One of my biggest inspirations is Chrissie Wellington, she has accomplished so much. Try reading her book if you want some motivation.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
Like anyone else would. Speaking to my coach, friends and family.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
My job’s also my hobby!
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
I’ve been awarded a number of coaching awards including the UK Sport Young Coach of the Year.
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?
Yes. I am the ambassador for the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB), and Cornwall Sports Partnership. For more information, please visit www.rlsb.org.uk, and Cornwall Sports Partnership. For more information, please visit: www.cornwallsportspartnership.co.uk