Wednesday 5th May 2010. Six of the UK’s most deserving women were today honoured at SHE magazine’s third Inspiring Women Awards. The annual event, held in the Ballroom at London’s Claridges hotel, paid tribute to the extraordinary achievements of six ordinary women, all nominated by SHE magazine readers for their life-changing work.
THE CHAMPION: Nicola Minichiello, Olympic Athlete and World Champion in women’s bobsleighing.
When she crashed into a concrete wall at 70mph during the third heat of this year’s Winter Olympics, Nicola’s first thought was not whether she would survive, but of the gold medal she had lost. This commitment illustrates the resolve that got her to the Olympics. Brought up by her single mother on benefits and the victim of racist bullying at school, Nicola’s passion for athletics got her into teacher training. “Sport saved me. It was an opportunity to get away from my environment,” she says. She soon became a dedicated heptathlete. Her speed and agility didn’t go unnoticed and two weeks after her brother’s death from a heroin overdose, when she was 24, she was asked to audition for the British bobsleigh team. “I thought, ‘What the heck, life is too short’.”
Last year she won the world championship with brake-woman Gill Cooke. In the summer she teaches to fund the team – she bought her £8,500 bobsleigh on her credit card, which she is still paying off. Before this year’s Winter Olympics Nicola faced yet
another hurdle when she lost the sight in one eye – due to inflammation of the retina – and was operated on just 16 days before the games. Then came the crash. “It’s just one of those things I’m putting down to experience. Crashes happen.”
Next on her agenda is defending her world title and continuing her work with the Youth Sport Trust. “If there’s one person who I can influence, then that for me is fantastic, especially if it’s a young person. It’s an honour to be in that position.”