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Paralympian Mel’s new challenge

May 30th 2019
Jane Percival

Paralympian Mel Clarke has announced her retirement from the Archery GB squad.

Mel, who won Paralympic bronze and silver, as well as national, European and world titles, famously said her next goal was Paralympic gold. But now she has something even more precious: her daughter Cali. And she and her husband, fellow Paralympian Richard Hennahane, could not be happier. “It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s better than winning gold, than winning two. It’s everything I need.”

There have been many honours during the compounder’s illustrious career. The high points have included Paralympic bronze in 2008, team gold and individual silver at the World Archery Para championships in 2009, silver at London 2012 where she was edged out by teammate Danielle Brown, bronze at the Bangkok World Para Championships in 2013 and a hard-fought fourth place plus mixed team silver with John Stubbs at the championships in Donauschingen two years later.

“I’ve had as fantastic 17 years on the programme,” she said. “I have met some amazing people and I want to thank everybody who has given me support over the years. It’s been a difficult decision but I need to concentrate on this now and I just don’t have time to do the training needed to perform at the highest level. Besides, we can now spend weekends at home having fun, just me Rich and Cali, instead of being on a cold, wet field!”

“It’s all been a bit of a roller coaster.” Mel developed osteomylelitis after a fall during a childhood dance exam but found archery when she was 15. It gave her new purpose and independence. In 2003 she collapsed at the World Archery Championships in New York and spent time on life-support. The cause? A tick bite. It left her with Lyme Disease, paralysed from the waist down, blind in one eye and her hearing was damaged. But, as she points out, if that had not happened, she would never have met Richard, they would not have become close during squad training – and she would not have had Cali, now four-and-a-half months old.

She is hoping to continue her work as a passionate ambassador for archery, going into schools, youth sports trusts and working with Energize, a Shropshire sports charity – and she is still going to shoot at club level.

Paralympic Performance Manager Tom Duggan paid tribute saying: “Mel has been a great ambassador for the sport, not only through her performances but also through the work that she has done in and around the community to tell not only her story, but that of the sport.

“While the last few years have been challenging with injuries, to be bowing out now for such a wonderful life-changing reason is a positive and we wish Mel, Richard and Cali the very best.”

Above: Mel Clarke celebrating silver at London 2012

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