University of Bristol: Student to compete in all 96 Olympic sports during Tokyo games

From weightlifting to dressage and sailing to pole vaulting, Charlotte Nichols and partner Stuart Bates will run, throw and jump their way through nearly 100 sports. They believe they are the first to attempt the impressive feat.

Not only will the pair need to complete a triathlon, a 50km speed walk, a 10km swim (which takes the world’s best athletes two hours to complete) and a 240km road cycle, but also a full marathon.

Charlotte has been fitting a rigorous training regime around studying to become a doctor at the University of Bristol and Stuart around a full-time job as a window cleaner in Oxford.

This year marks 10 years since the passing of Stuart’s brother Spencer ‘Spenny’ Bates. The father of two was taken tragically young – aged just 49 – by motor neurone disease.

Charlotte and Stuart hope to raise £10,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association with their Olympic challenge, which they have dubbed the ‘Spennylympics’.

Charlotte, who has just finished her third year at Bristol, said: “We’re terrified and excited at the same time. It’s been a real journey already: we’ve had to learn loads of new sports and we’ve met some amazing people along the way.

“The training has been tough, particularly fitting it around studying medicine. But there have been some incredible moments too, like sailing in Weymouth as the sun was setting.

“It has been a chance for us both to think about Spenny a lot too. When you’re feeling achy and tired and you don’t want to go out and train, having him in your mind really helps.”

Starting on July 23, Charlotte and Stuart will have 17 days to complete the 96 sports. They will visit Reading to cycle on the velodrome, Bath for some of their track and field and Bristol to surf at the Wave, a new inland surfing venue.

They will then travel to Weymouth – Spenny’s home town – to go sailing and windsurfing. While there, on the penultimate day of the challenge they will play a football match with Spenny’s friends and family.

The final day will be the dreaded marathon.

Spenny was well-known in Weymouth for being a drummer in several bands. He left behind his wife Nicky and two sons, Samuel, now aged 18, and Isaac, now aged 14.

Stuart describes Spenny as “a truly one-off character who was universally loved by all that met him – and this was borne out when over 750 people attended his funeral, filling the church and streets outside”.

He added: “He was many things to many people – a loyal and trusted friend, a completely devoted father and husband and just the best company you could wish for. He was always at the centre of any mischief and his parties will be remembered for ever by all those lucky enough to have attended, and still able to remember them!”

“To me though, he was my brother, my hero and best friend all rolled in to one. There is not a day goes by that his presence isn’t missed and we will continue to do everything that we can to raise money so that a cure can be found for this brutal and 100% fatal disease.”

Despite their busy schedules, Stuart and Charlotte have managed to recruit more than 55 former and current Olympians to be ambassadors for the challenge, including rower Ollie Cooke, pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw and runner Sally Gunnell.

Dozens more have helped by offering lessons in everything from canoeing to rhythmic gymnastics.

The University of Bristol has given the pair free run of their sporting facilities, including the gym and pool, along with expert help from their coaches.

“Knowing I’ve had somewhere to train has been really good,” Charlotte said.

Before passing away Spenny was a keen charity fundraiser. Since his death his family have continued that tradition, raising more than £100,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

“To be able to carry that on is great,” said Charlotte.

“Getting prepared for the Spennylympics has brought up a lot of old friends from the past and it’s been really nice to hear them share their stories.

“We have been so inspired by those currently living with motor neurone disease and their amazing families. We heard a story the other day from one of the MND association regional fundraisers who had been giving a presentation about our challenge in a support group meeting and a woman whose husband was recently diagnosed said that hearing about our challenge and seeing our ridiculous videos had made her laugh for the first time in six months – that really bring home the importance of raising money and completing this challenge.”

Stuart and Charlotte now have just a few weeks of training before they are thrown into the biggest physical challenge of their lives. And the bit they are dreading the most?

“Diving 10 metres is pretty daunting, but I’ll make it happen!” said Charlotte

Stuart added: “There are so many events where there is a real danger of injury, so we will need a huge slice of luck along the way and staying on the horse whilst show jumping is something giving me sleepless nights!“

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