There are few people who can say they have competed for Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the international stage, graduated with a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering, and enjoy a career in the car production industry by the age of 25, but that’s exactly what Anna Nicholson has achieved.
For Anna, the end of 2019 signalled a breakthrough moment in relation to her athletics career as she competed at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, finishing fourth in the F35 shot put on her senior world debut. She also extended her personal best to 8.47 metres, a significant improvement.
The track in the United Arab Emirates was a long way from Sunderland where she works full-time at Nissan as a production engineer following her progression from their graduate scheme. Nicholson is responsible for working on the trim and chassis for some of the most recognisable cars on the roads in the UK.
Based in the North-East, but originally from Carlisle, Nicholson started para athletics at the age of 15 – in 2010 – when she attended a multi-sports day for people with disabilities near her school. Anna – who has cerebral palsy – wowed the PE teachers on the day when she launched the sponge discus from one end of the sports hall to the other, showing her potential in the throws.
One person who recognised her talent and started her athletics career at school was Lenny Miller, the father of Nick Miller who is the current UK record holder in the hammer.
Her improvements continued under Clare Buckle, who she says has been an influential presence throughout her career, coaching and offering support throughout her time in athletics. Although she would later settle into the Gateshead AC sprints group under the guidance of Janice Kaufman after her move to Newcastle to study at the university, she would still receive remote throws coaching from Buckle.