Paralympic athlete Richard Whitehead MBE inspires young people at University careers event

6 July 2022

Paralympic and world champion athlete Richard Whitehead MBE visited the University of Derby to share his experiences and give advice to young people interested in pursuing a career in sport.   

Richard, who has a double through-knee congenital amputation, won his first world title at the World Championships in New Zealand, quickly followed by European and Paralympic gold in 2012. More recently, at last year’s rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, Richard claimed silver in the T61 200m.

He shared his journey as a professional athlete and covered the possible avenues available in the industry at the University’s ‘Careers in Sport’ event, where he spoke in front of Year 10 and 12 students from a number of schools and colleges across Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

Richard, who recently launched The Richard Whitehead Foundation, which aims to inspire and tackle the barriers faced by people with disabilities in accessing sport and being engaged in their community, said: “The event at the University of Derby, I felt, was very engaging and to be a small part of the progress of the students towards further education is key to my own and my Foundation’s legacy.

“I feel that we can all change the world in our small parts and for me it is aiming to progress and not to be perfect; that is the key!”

As well as listening to Richard’s talk, which was in the form of a Q&A style-session with Derby student Daniel Jellicoe, students had the opportunity to take part in activities such as cycling and rowing competitions and attend sport taster sessions sampling activities related to the University’s sports courses.

These included interactive sessions in Performance Analysis, Sports Management, Biomechanics, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation, some of which took place in the University’s Human Performance Unit – a dedicated space focused on providing sport science and coach development services to coaches, individuals and teams wanting to enhance their performance.

They also had the chance to try out sports on the pitches including football, hockey and basketball, located close to the University’s Sports Centre, which is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities including a fitness suite, tennis courts, and climbing wall.

Kayleigh Vincent, PE Teacher at Paulet High School, in Burton on Trent, said: “Our students really enjoyed hearing about Richard’s journey to success. He is a true inspiration to everyone, not just aspiring athletes. The University sport facilities are 5* and the day has enabled our students to look forward to embarking on a career in sport.”

Current students at the University were also involved in the event and were there to talk to students about university life, show them around the campus and encourage attendees to get involved in the activities, as part of peer-to-peer engagement.

Hannah Wright, Schools and College Liaison Manager at the University of Derby, said: “The Schools and Colleges Liaison Team works with schools and colleges across the country to provide a link with the University. The team offers an exciting and inspirational programme of free events which have been designed to showcase the breadth of progression options available to learners after Sixth Form or College.

“Face to face engagement with our undergraduate students and academics, as well as being able to take a look around our facilities and get a real feel for university life, is invaluable to young people when making decisions about their future.”

Dr Andy Hooton, Head of Sport and Exercise Science at the University, added: “The ‘Careers in Sport’ day is a fantastic event for the discipline area of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Derby. Welcoming a number of schools and colleges, guest speaker Richard Whitehead provided an inspirational session for all students to kick off the day. Following this, there were a raft of activities and competitions for prospective students to engage in, providing an inclusive and enjoyable day for all.”

To find out more about the outreach activity that the Schools and Colleges Liaison Team can deliver either on campus or in schools and colleges, please contact or sign up to the SCL newsletter.

Find out more about studying Sport at the University of Derby.

Richard Whitehead talking to audience at the University of Derby
Richard Whitehead at the University of Derby. Picture credit: Jon Thorne Photography.

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