Born able-bodied, the competitive spark started at an early age for Mel Clarke, who had deep-rooted passion for sport and dance at school. Unfortunately, surgery at the age of 11 for osteomyelitis on her hip derailed her aspirations, as she found herself requiring crutches and a wheelchair for her mobility. "There weren't many sporting opportunities for a disabled person 20 years ago" reflected Mel, but at the age of 15, Mel would find her calling as she joined a 'Have a go' archery session at the local Girl Guide group. "I wasn't very good, but I enjoyed it so I carried on. I never dreamed that it would take me where it has!"
Mel's dedication would pay off in 2002 when she represented Great Britain for the first time at the Disabled European Archery Championships in Poland, where she won her first gold medal and set 6 world records in her field!
Fast forward to 2003 and Mel became the first disabled athlete in Europe to represent Great Britain on an able-bodied team! However, it was whilst she was competing at the World Championships in New York that Mel would encounter her biggest challenge, as was taken ill with Lyme Disease. "My parents were told that I may not survive and I was left with multiple disabilities, including now being a full-time wheelchair user with T10 incomplete Paraplegia". Told by doctors that she would never shoot an arrow again, Mel defied the odds and within two years she had won the Paralympic World Championships. Since then, the awards have just kept coming! Multiple medals at the World and European Championships, her first Paralympic Games Bronze medal at Beijing 2008 and in her home country in 2012, Mel went one better, winning a Silver medal in front of her hometown supporters in London, England.
Currently training for the Paralympic Games in Rio, Mel is eager to achieve her next goal of completing her Paralympic Games medal set - "I'm looking forward to competing in Rio, and winning a gold medal – this would complete my Paralympic medal set and would be an amazing thing to do!"
"Archery has given me some incredible opportunities. I've met some amazing, inspiring people and I've travelled the world and competed in many countries. To represent your country at a major championship and be successful is an incredible feeling and a real honour. I've been asked 'do you wish you weren’t disabled after New York?' - and yes, of course I do, but if being in a wheelchair wouldn’t have happened I wouldn’t have been able to do all of the incredible things I have been able (and still can) do! So no, I wouldn’t change a thing!"