THE RACE TO 2012Nikki Emerson is a very important person to follow in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics - both on and off the track. An Oxford graduate, she studied Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology at Magdalen College, matriculating in 2006. Nikki now works for LOCOG, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, a fantastic job she got through her involvement in the Atalanta's Society. "I work for the Merchandising Department - at the moment I am negotiating design for the apparel and working on deals for cycling and equestrian." "I STILL WEAR MY OXFORD STASH LACROSSE HOODIE INSTEAD OF MY GB KIT ALL THE TIME."
I 11 www.sport.ox.ac.ukNikki might be a powerful businesswoman in the office but Nikki feels most at home on the track - she is an inspiring athlete through and through. Before and after work she is training hard for the wheelchair races in 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m distances for the Paralympics in 2012. "On a typical day I will get up at 4.45am for training, to then catch the 6.45am tube to Canary Wharf to start work. I work 8am-5pm followed by more training in the evening." During her season Nikki also competes in the marathon distance, having recently competed in the London Marathon, finishing in a fantastic fourth place, and the Berlin Marathon. "I train short distances for the Paralympics but prefer marathons."A lacrosse Blue and former modern pentathlete, Nikki started wheelchair racing after she broke her back in a car accident in 2008. "After my accident I first got into rowing for about six months before I was introduced to wheelchair racing; eventually wheelchair racing felt better and suited me more." Nikki is coached by Dr Ian Thompson and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, an 11-time Paralympic gold medallist in wheelchair racing, who has been a big inspiration to her. During her final year at Oxford Nikki was training at Stoke Mandeville, occasionally going up to Loughborough, with sessions at Iffley Road. Disabled access is one of the main focuses in the new redevelopment plan for the Iffley Road Sport Complex, something Nikki strongly supports. "I mainly used the track and the pool at Iffley Road - the rest of the facilities were simply too difficult to access in a wheelchair. I do a lot of weights but had to go to LA Fitness to do my sessions there instead since there wasn't enough space to move around in the Iffley gym and weights room. There are also no disabled changing rooms or toilets in the sports hall and gym area - I had to go to the pool to get changed." She is very excited about the new plans for the Sports Complex: "I think the redevelopment will put Oxford on the map for disabled student athletes and encourage them to apply."Nikki is still a true Oxford girl at heart. She follows the results of her old lacrosse team and recollects her first lacrosse Varsity as her favourite Oxford sport moment. "I still wear my Oxford stash lacrosse hoodie instead of my GB kit all the time - everyone asks me about it but I still love Oxford sport and find it exciting." Nikki is now sponsored by British Airways for travel, and Continental for her tyres; Adidas has also given her racing kit. After her post at LOCOG comes to an end when the Olympics are all wrapped up, Nikki "I DO A LOT OF WEIGHTS BUT HAD TO GO TO LA FITNESS TO DO MY SESSIONS THERE INSTEAD SINCE THERE WASN'T ENOUGH SPACE TO MOVE AROUND IN THE IFFLEY GYM AND WEIGHTS ROOM. THERE ARE ALSO NO DISABLED CHANGING ROOMS OR TOILETS IN THE SPORTS HALL AND GYM AREA - I HAD TO GO TO THE POOL TO GET CHANGED."is keen to go back to University. "I am trying to decide between Oxford, Loughborough and Bath, but I will most likely end up going to Loughborough or Bath since the sporting facilities there are simply better and more accessible." After the Paralympics Nikki has another dream she would like to fulfil: "I would really like to do an Ironman one day." Knowing Nikki and her determination and commitment, I have no doubt that she will. ?Enni-Kukka Tuomala