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World Championship first for University of East London para-athlete

Taneka Hero

High performance scholar, Vanessa Wallace, wins her first bronze medal at the World Championships in Dubai

University of East London high performance athletics scholar Vanessa Wallace has just scooped a bronze, winning her first world championship medal in the F34 Shot Put at the World Para Athletics World Championships in Dubai on 12 November.

Vanessa (42) who is currently studying Sports and Exercise Science at the University has experienced a meteoric rise in the sport, having taken it up in late 2014 and then going on to compete at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio just 18 months later.

She said after the win, “I’m a little bit shocked. It’s been a long time coming but it feels so good. I’m really proud of myself.

“My coach told me to get the other contestants a little bit worried early on. I did my best and it came through.”

Vanessa, a former wheelchair racing coach and athletics activator for England Athletics, has been supported by the University of East London for the last three years and is one of the leading athletes on the high performance programme at East London Sport. She also supports other athletes on the high-performance programme at the University.

“I am so grateful for the help and support that I have had from the University of East London throughout my three-year course and my training,” Vanessa added. “Their solid backing has helped me to believe that I can do this and can achieve reaching the top of my game. I feel now that the Tokyo Paralympics could be my time!

“It’s been an interesting year and a really good year. It’s been an experience competing at this level, but it shows, with the right preparation, anything can happen and it can go really well.”

Vanessa, who also trains with Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club, was fifth at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and then won gold at the 2018 European Championships. She has a neurological condition called Dystonia as well as a muscular-skeletal condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects her connective tissues, giving her severe joint issues, chronic fatigue and pain.
“Training for my event was the only thing that got me out of bed during tough times,” she recalled. “But getting to my sessions and doing something gave me such a sense of achievement.”
In Dubai Vanessa threw consistently throughout the competition, with her best coming in round five when she launched a fantastic 7.66 metres, a lifetime best by 2cm. The European champion opened with a throw of 7.25 metres, which left Vanessa top of the leader board with seven other competitors to follow.

After coming fifth at Rio 2016, Vanessa added the European champions title in 2018. With a bronze medal at the World Championships now under her belt, she is building up quite a collection.

Matthew Tansley, Director of Sport at the University of East London said, “This has been a remarkable achievement for Vanessa and congratulations to her for such a fantastic win. We are proud to have supported her throughout her training and all her hard work and persistence in training has really paid off.”