Adele Nicoll has travelled a long way from the person who was “sad” and “rather lost” in 2020, to the extent she has a live chance of achieving the rare feat of competing in both a Summer and Winter Olympics.
In that relatively short space of time, the multi-talented 27-year-old has twice been crowned British shot put champion in 2022 and 2023, and in a polar opposite to that discipline competed in the world bobsleigh championships this year.
“I reflect on the progress from 2020 to now, and my life has completely changed,” she said from Germany. “I remember aged nine writing down what I wanted to be by 2020 and putting it in an envelope. “I opened it when I was sorting through my stuff at home during the Covid lockdown and was very, very sad as the target had been to be a professional athlete.
“I realised I had failed my younger self and it gave me the kick up the bum to go on and fulfil my childhood dream.”
She has already been to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing – as a reserve brakewoman in the British bobsleigh team – and is targeting the 2026 edition in Italy.
An eighth-place finish at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham showed she remains a competitive force in athletics but Nicoll admits that qualifying for the Paris Olympics this year could be a stretch – Los Angeles in 2028 is more realistic – because she has invested so much time into transitioning from a bobsleigh brake woman to a driver.
“The 2026 Winter Games are my main priority, but if I qualify for Paris that will be a bonus,” she said, admitting she has had “six months away from the shot.”
If she does not make it, it will not be for want of trying as she has followed the advice her parents gave her at an early age – “always show up and never give up”. 100 percent I have lived up to it,” she said. “I look back and realise how pivotal the manner in which parents bring you up is. They are the reason why my mindset is as it is and that I always show up regardless of how I feel. Perseverance is very hard to beat. If you are not willing to make it through when you are at rock bottom you are never going to deserve to be on top of the world.”
Nicoll did battle through when things were none too rosy – and the catalyst was an unlikely one.
“From 2019 to 2021 I was having a hard time with everything to do with sport,” said Nicoll, who finished ninth in the monobob and 11th in the two-woman bob at the world championships.
“I am not a quitter but I knew I was not enjoying it or getting results. I was really lost with life and where I wanted to go. The bobsleigh opportunity came at the perfect time, a message from (British bobsledder) Mica McNeill on Instagram saying: ‘Have you ever tried bobsleigh? I saw your training video and you look very powerful.’”
She hopped on board but not before she had to shed almost 20 kilograms. It paid off as she and McNeill finished runners-up in a World Cup race on only her second outing – the first podium finish for British women in 13 years.
Her mental power is not in doubt as she has a degree in clinical neuroscience, a masters in psychology and wanted to do a doctorate in clinical psychology.
“I postponed it as most of them require you to work on site, and my bobsleigh takes priority, not least as I owe that to Mike Harris who funds me for the two-woman bob,” she said. Harris is chairman of 15-time Welsh football champions The New Saints who train in Oswestry, the town where Nicoll coincidentally first trained aged nine.
It is her parents who have been the backbone to their only child’s career – from father Paul being her ‘taxi service’ and training her when she was young to her mother Justine organising her travel and entries.
“Dad has kept me grounded all my life,” said Nicoll. “When I won silver at the Europa Cup race in St Moritz in January he said if you polished your runners a bit more you would have won gold... the next day I did win gold with Kya (Placide). I must have given them a bit of an extra rub!” she added.
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