After the heartbreak of watching the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games from his home in Wembley, wheelchair sprinter Sheikh Sheikh is determined to have his moment in the spotlight in four year’s time.
The 21-year-old missed out on qualification for the T54 100m in Rio by 0.15s, but rather than let the disappointment deter him from achieving his dream of becoming Paralympic champion, Sheikh is more focussed than ever.
Skeikh, who receives SportsAid funding via Royal Bank of Canada, trains at the Weir Archer Academy in Kingston, under the tutelage of six-time Paralympic David Weir, and his coach Jenny Archer.
But despite beating many of the athletes that competed in Rio, at the early-season IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland, earlier this year, his times weren’t quite fast enough to qualify for ParalympicsGB’s Rio team.
“It was killing me from the inside, I was thinking ‘why wasn’t I there’, but it always happens for a reason. I can just let it fuel me to achieve greater things in life,” said Sheikh, who has benefitted from being a SportsAid athlete in 2008, and 2012-2015.
“I was just down on the qualifying time for Rio, so it’s just something that I need to work towards, and I can only push forwards from that.
“When I was looking at the Paralympics, some of the athletes who were beating me for the last three years, but whom I absolutely smashed in Switzerland this year, were there in Rio.
“Tokyo 2020 is hopefully the next big goal, God-willing I will be there.”
Sheikh took nearly half a second off his 100m personal best in Switzerland, and the 2014 IWAS World Junior Games T54 100m champion, said anything is possible with Weir and Archer in his corner.
“To have someone like David Weir, the world’s best athlete, Paralympic gold medallist, working with me, he knows what it takes to be a champion,” he added.
“Not only on the track, but off the track he advises me too.
“It’s the little things that make the difference, he tells me about tyre pressure, gloves, and then Jenny Archer is the coach that got David to where he is today.
“I’ve got two of the best people in the sport helping me to be the best I can be, and I’m sure that with them around me, that’s more than possible.”
SportsAid is the national charity that helps the next generation of British sporting superstars, helping them with financial support and recognition during the early stages of their careers.
At the recent Rio Paralympic Games, SportsAid alumni won 104 of ParalympicsGB’s 147 medals, with 65% of the team having received support from the charity.
Sheikh wants to make that statistic even more impressive in Tokyo, and said he could do it without the help of SportsAid.
“When I turned professional I stepped it up a level but I needed a new chair, new wheels, and funding to get to competitions in the UK and across Europe,” said the Middlesex University student.
“With SportsAid funding I was able to purchase gloves and pay for expenses, to go to training.
“That amount has really allowed me to step it up through the years. I’m now competing at an international level, not just because of hard work and coaching from David and Jenny, but also because of the help from SportsAid.
“They take the weight off my shoulders, my parents’ shoulders. They are the ones that really make this possible.”
You can make a real difference to the next generation of British athletes heading for Tokyo 2020 and beyond by getting involved in SportsAid Week – a brand new fundraising initiative taking place from Monday 26 September to Sunday, October 2 2016.
Please visit http://www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek/ to find out more.
Image courtesy of SportsAid, with thanks