Wheelchair Rugby star and Paralympian Aaron Phipps will be joining the exciting line-up of Athlete Mentors at this year’s event.

Aaron, who overcame meningitis C and meningococcal septicaemia as a teenager, made his Paralympic in London 2012.

After competing in a charity 10k wheelchair race in 2007, Aaron acquired his first racing wheelchair and began to compete more competitively, completing two London Marathons in the process.

His fitness not going unnoticed, Aaron was introduced to the GB Wheelchair Rugby squad and after only a short while, he was classified as a 3.5 player (the highest ranking in the GB Wheelchair Rugby squad).

Following his selection for the 2012 Paralympics, Aaron scored over half of the teams overall points during the competition!

We spoke to Aaron about his pathway into sport and his top tips for our young athletes…

Aaron, what is your proudest achievement to-date?

I’ve got two! One is competing in the London 2012 Paralympics and the other was being the first person in the world to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair without any help!

But, my biggest achievement is surely my children!


What would you be doing nowadays if you weren’t an athlete?

When I was younger I wasn’t really making the best choices so I don’t know where I would have ended up. In some ways, becoming poorly was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me, because falling into sport afterwards has completely changed my life for the better.

I think I would probably have been a plumber or an electrician and there’s nothing wrong with that… but in my heart I think I wanted to be an artist.

 

Is this what you had wanted to be, growing up?

I always thought I’d be a graphic designer! It’s funny because I’ve ended up as an elite athlete.

So yeah, graphic designer was the goal, but sport has really made me.


Who do you look up to most?

So many people! In terms of athletes, I’d pick David Weir (British Paralympic wheelchair athlete and owner of six Paralympic golds), but also my teammates and my squad.

Also, Chris Ryan, our team captain and Andy Barrow, the former Team GB athlete who still gives me a lot of advice and support.

My dad, as well! I’m 35 and I still drag my dad round to places with me so he can fix my wheelchair and drive me to tournaments and stuff!

And lastly, my family!

 

Can you share any of your top training tips with us?

Put yourself in the moment and choose to be where you are. Try and take your mind off how hard it is.

So, for example, if the next interval is going to take 30 seconds it’s really, in the grand scheme of things, only 30 seconds of your life. Grin and bear it and it’ll be over so quickly… you’ve got to look at the positives!

 

Any top tips for teamwork?

Everybody on your team might not be your best mate, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t all perform well together.

In life, you’re going to have to work within team and with an array of different people; some of those you’ll get on with really well and some you won’t.

It doesn’t mean that, when it comes to crunch time, that you can’t perform well as a squad.

So, just remember: you don’t have to try and be everybody’s best mate!


Have you got any special routines or traditions to prepare for competitions?

I do put my gloves on in a certain way and tape them in a certain way.

I try and keep myself calm and make sure that I don’t get too fired up.

I run through what I’m going to be doing on court in my head… but once I’ve got onto court and waved at my family, it’s business time.

 

Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you at a competition?

Haha, quite a few things! I’ve scored own goals… tried to score in the wrong goal… I’ve flipped myself out of my wheelchair. There are so many things, it’s ridiculous!

I was on the TV last night and my headband was on upside down! I generally, most of the time, make a fool of myself.

But, there’s nothing too horrendous… although there was one time where my bum came out in the middle of a game… but I just had to carry on playing!

 

What’s been your best strategy for overcoming defeat?

It’s never easy! You just need the drive to pick yourself up and go again.

It’s good to have a goal or an aim. If you get beaten in a tournament, aim towards the next tournament and start working out what when wrong for you before.

I think you’ve got to strive to move forward.

You can easily get tied up in the ‘what if’ mentality and, although it’s always important to look back and discover what went wrong, at some point you have to just move on.

 

What’s the most difficult country/environment you’ve ever competed in?

We generally play in sports halls so it’s not too bad, but I remember one competition in Canada where it was sweltering outside. They had all the doors open but it was so incredibly hot… you have to try and adapt.

Jet lag I always really struggle with, and I’m not great when I’m tired… I get really grumpy!

I played in a tournament last week that was quite bad, because they’ve laid down a fake wooden floor but it was almost like little square bricks! My wheels kept getting caught in it, but I just had to remember that it wasn’t just happening to me, but it was happening to everybody, so I couldn’t let it ruin the game.

 

Athletes obviously have to think about their diet more than others… but have you got a favourite cheat meal?

After London 2012, I bought and large bag of Doritos and a whole block of cheese; I cooked a big chilli and emptied the entire bag of Doritos and the whole block of cheese on top and I ate it all!

It was great but I felt a little bit sick afterwards!

 

What’s your favourite wind-down technique after a big competition?

My favourite wind down is just being back with my girls. Nothing takes my mind off my sport more than they do.

It’s always difficult straight after a tournament, but when I get back home and I’m with my family, I can chill out with them in the garden and be ‘daddy’ again, it’s great.

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