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University Student Breaks European Wheelchair Racing Record

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A paralympic hopeful and University of Worcester student has broken a European athletics record in his first international event.

Ben Oliver took six seconds off the 800m T33 track record at the International Paralympic Committee Athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland with a time of 2 minutes 22 seconds.

The 20-year-old, from Bodmin, Cornwall, said: “It still hasn’t sunk in to be honest.

“It’s just good to have and it’s strange having it and saying I’m the European record holder.”

Ben, who has just finished the first year of a Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport degree, took up wheelchair racing three years ago.

After a year teaching himself by watching others, Ben now has a coach and trains 15 hours a week around his studies.

Earlier this year the University awarded Ben a £600 scholarship to help with expenses for the competition in addition to an entry scholarship in recognition of his outstanding grades from Truro College.

Ben managed to raise a further £1,230 to cover the expenses of the Switzerland competition, which allows him to be internationally classified and means his times will count towards a world ranking.

It also gives him the chance to qualify for this summer’s Rio Paralympic Games.

Of the race, Ben said: “I just got a good start and relaxed my pace.  My arms just felt really good when I was pushing.

“I was feeling really good on the first lap and thought I’m going to go hard on the second one.

“I knew it was a good time but I didn’t realise it was a European record.

“They announced it on the tannoy and I couldn’t believe it.”

Ben, who has cerebral palsy, still has hopes to make the Rio Paralympic Games.

But as it only offers 100m racing, which is not his strongest event, Ben said he would have to lose a second off his time to qualify and be consistent to make the Great Britain squad.

He said his focus is largely on competing at the World ParaAthletics Championships in London next summer and building on his record with his eye on the next Paralympic Games.

“I think it’s going to be a platform to work on,” he said.

“Now I’ve got that I’ll think I can achieve all this and catch up with the top guys.

“Next year I can really smash it and go even further than I have gone before.”