He says “I don’t see barriers, (literally, hence the scars!) and want to help blind and VI children and adults reach their goals whatever they may be, through giving them the opportunity to, if not win medals in sport, then win them in life.”
Noel was born with Optic Atrophy, a degenerative condition affecting the optic nerve affecting all areas of the visual field, close and distant. A bit like looking at a snowy old TV signal, I think (difficult to explain when you have never known any different).
He attended regular infants school where he had to carry a specially made desk between lessons which really helped him fit right in!
Between the ages of 10-18 he attended Exhall Grange School in Coventry, a school for VI and blind children.
Forced to run as part of school system, he hated it! He was caught smoking age 12 and forced to run 5 miles a night for 1 month. This “training” led him to finish 3rd in school cross country and the rest is a matter of public record.
Noel made his International debut at 17, winning a silver medal in the European championships 400m. Since then he has spent 21 years running around in circles all over the world, taking part in 6 Paralympic Games, winning a total of Five Gold medals including a “double” of 5000m/10,000m in Atlanta in 1996. This led to being awarded an MBE by the Queen in the 1997 New Years honours list.
In total, Noel has won 42 International Gold medals over 6 distances. Set around 10 World Records and was honoured to be selected, by my teammates, to carry the Union flag in the Opening Ceremony in Athens 2004. Noel ran his last International in 2005 “taking a lazy bronze in the European 10,000m”.
“I was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009 which is still a bit unreal given I stand alongside Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Roger Bannister, to name but a few.”
Noel currently works as a full-time musculo-skeletal Physiotherapist at Holly House Hospital in Buckhurst Hill and is working towards Masters degree.
He is very happily married to Yumi for 11 years, who he met when studying Japanese at the London University School of African and Asian Studies. They are now expecting their first child in August.
Thanks to Vision Charity for the video and text.