East Grinstead resident Abbie Hunnisett has her eyes firmly set on competing in both the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games.
Abbie is 18 years old and competes in the colours of the Weir Archer Academy, based in Kingston. She has been improving rapidly in the club throwing event where she is currently ranked 4th in the world. She is one of the founder members of the Academy which was set up by Paralympic hero David Weir and his long term coach Jenny Archer to help further disability sport in the UK. The Academy was granted Athletics Club status in April of this year, having grown quickly to a strength of 44 athletes.
Abbie is coached by the academy’s throw coach Camilla Thrush who says “Nobody in the academy, with the possible exception of David Weir, trains as hard as Abbie both on the throwing field and in the gym.”
The starlet has attracted attention in the athletics world with her amazing performances in 2013 when she threw 17.79m and finished 6th in the world rankings. She has been put on the Paralympic Futures Programme by British Athletics, the sport’s national governing body, which aims to guide prodigiously talented young athletes to become medal winners at future games. The charity SportsAid also help towards the cost of competing at such a high level.
This year Abbie has high expectations for herself. She has already thrown the club over 19m for the first time, setting a new personal best (and a new age-related record) of 19.13m in Coventry. Ever the true sportswoman, Abbie isn’t happy to settle for that and would like to break the magic 20m barrier.
Abbie is supported by a wide range of organisations so her success is a real team effort. Mike Baxter from the charity REMAP has made the world class frame that Abbie sits in to throw, while Kingston University provides ongoing biomechanics support. Freedom Leisure at East Grinstead Sports Club allow the use of their sports hall for training during bad weather. Valence School allow Abbie to train around lessons and provide a room for bespoke gym equipment to be used for her sport specific training. More recently the girls from Ascot Rugs in Lingfield have helped design and make a more comfortable and flexible back rest for Abbie's throwing frame, as well as covers for the chair straps.
As for Chartham Park, we're providing Abbie with free use of the gym and facilities under the British Olympic Association Passport Scheme.
Abbie and the Academy are on the lookout for sponsorship to help with the added costs of competing in disability sport. If you're interested in helping out, you can get more information by contacting Abbie’s dad Mark Hunnisett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The club runs open days during which disabled people of any fitness level can try disability sports including throwing, wheelchair racing, archery and wheelchair tennis. Again, please contact Mark to find out more.
Abbie recently competed at Swansea and came fourth in a combined club throwing event. She would have won a silver if they had kept to the original grouping and didn’t combine the class and use the Raza scale points system. It was combined as another class didn’t have enough competitors.
To come fourthin her first major competition was great. She threw her third best throw of the season under the pressure of the camera and thousands of spectators! Two days later she was competing again in the Alexander Stadium in the IPC Grand Prix Final.
From September onwards, Abbie has reduced her time at school to two days a week and increased her training, in a bid to be selected again for the World Championships next year in Doha and this time win a medal.
This is all in preparation for Rio, which seems like a long way off but the cycle for selection starts next year!