University of Bristol: The People’s Olympians: Inspirational couple raise £75,000 with epic charity challenge

The dogged couple have already raised more than £75,000 in memory of Stuart’s brother with their daring attempt to compete in all 96 Olympic sports during the 17 days of the Tokyo Games.

Charlotte, a medical student at the University of Bristol, and Stuart, a window cleaner from Oxfordshire, have now completed some 60 of the sports, including skateboarding, climbing, a 240km cycle, 10km swim and 40km race walk.

The pair are “bruised, battered and covered in blisters” but “are determined to see it through”, according to Stuart.

“There have been a few tears,” Charlotte said. “Sometimes you’re just hurting so much. There was a point on the cycle when we’d done 150km and we still had 90km to go – I was so exhausted I just didn’t know if I could do it. I just stopped and cried.”

But showing the kind of Olympic spirit that has got the couple through the last 10 days, Charlotte got back on the bike and saw it through to the end.

The pair – who admit they were far from athletes six months ago – are raising money for the MND Association, which helped Stuart’s brother and best friend Spencer ‘Spenny’ Bates during the final years of his life.

They have named their challenge the Spennylympics in memory of Spencer and more than 3,000 people have donated to their Just Giving page.

Funds have flown in from around the world, but most have come from the UK. Many include touching messages from families who have lost loved ones to motor neurone disease.

One read: “‘Thank you’ is all I can say. I lost my Dad to MND 24 years ago but it still feels like yesterday.”

Another said: “Your brother would be so proud of you. An amazing challenge. A very important cause.”

Stuart, 51, said: “It is so hard to watch someone you love living with motor neurone disease. It’s 10 years since Spencer passed but I still think about him every single day.

“We have been sent so many messages from people living with this disease or from their families.

“It gives us an awful lot of pride but also so much motivation. We woke up yesterday and our bodies were in pieces but we read a few messages from these people and we got up, dusted ourselves off and got out.”

During the cross country Stuart was thrown from his horse – “We had different ideas of what was expected of him, I went over the jump but he didn’t” – and Charlotte had to be rescued by a nearby boat while windsurfing when a huge, dead trout ignited her debilitating fish phobia.

“It was terrifying, my worst nightmare,” said Charlotte, 21. “I would rather walk another 50k than do that again. I had to ask them to remove the fish before finishing the race. Looking back we probably shouldn’t have done it in a fishing lake!”

Support has also come from dozens of sports clubs who have offered them training and equipment and have come out in their droves to cheer them through the challenge.

Charlotte’s University gave the pair free run of their sporting facilities and expert help from their performance coaches.

Sarah Purdy, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Student Experience at the University of Bristol, said: “Charlotte and Stuart have the grit of Olympians and the hearts to match. It’s been amazing to watch their journey and with just a few days left to go of their challenge the whole University is rooting for them!”

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