Lee Manning hoping to wow friends and family on home soil

·4-min read
Lee Manning will compete as part of Team England at the Commonwealth Games (AAPIMAGE via Reuters Connect)

By Megan Armitage, Sportsbeat

Paralympic Games bronze medallist Lee Manning is a firm believer that family are the key to success.

The Peterborough athlete will make his Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham in front of family and friends this summer as wheelchair basketball takes the stage.

Manning is a double Paralympic bronze medallist in the sport and is thrilled that his family will be there in person to watch him compete after several years of playing abroad.

With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Manning hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.

Manning is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing him to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science, and medical support.

He said: "I think this Games is going to be a massive highlight for myself just from the fact that having family members be there.

"My first time playing for GB and winning a European medal, that was in Worcester so that was really special just because I had my little boy there and he was only a few months old.

"But I play my sport professionally over in Spain which means it's limited then and difficult for family members to come and watch.

"And the ability for me in my head to be able to give back to them is special.

"My mum is disabled herself, she's got MS and she isn't fit enough to travel to watch me, so the last time she did watch me would have been that 2015 Europeans and so the ability for her to come and watch me means a lot.

"So, I'm really excited for it, and I know there's going to be a lot of cherished memories from this."

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured his place on the squad, Manning is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in his home country.

Manning took up wheelchair basketball in a taster session at school and fell in love with the opportunities it gave him.

The 32-year-old was called up to play for Great Britain three months after joining his local club and went on to help win GB's historic World Championship title in 2018.

And his now seven-year-old son and six-year-old daughter will be cheering him on in the crowd at Birmingham in an emotional moment for the athlete.

He said: "It's going to be my first experience playing at a Games in my home country so the idea, just having the crowd there shouting for Team England is almost really over whelming but I'm really excited for it.

"I sat in the chair, and I instantly became alive, my wheels became my legs so all the things in my head that I couldn't do previously, I was suddenly doing.

"I was running, I was jumping, I was flying around the court, and I suddenly felt liberated that I was playing this sport that my body had limited me being able to do but the chair gave me freedom."

During the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Manning was given the role of assistant coach and athlete after Covid damaged the squad.

And he will be bringing his love of coaching onto the court at the 2022 Commonwealth Games as the new 3x3 half-court format places greater coaching responsibilities on the athletes.

He said: "I'm relishing the opportunity. My greatest passion in terms of sport is to give back to the next generation, it's a message that I truly believe in.

"And a lot of these athletes here, the second oldest I think is 20, so I'm 12 years older than anyone within my team.

"For me this is a great opportunity to pass on some of my knowledge or experience that I've gained over the years.

"It's another steppingstone along my journey but equally it's something I cherish, and I want to help these athletes to take my spot in the next few years.

"I think it's a unique opportunity or people to see wheelchair basketball. This is the first time that we've been in the Commonwealths for the 3x3, the first time I've been able to represent England.

"But more uniquely it's the first time we've been able to compete with able bodied athletes as well, not just the disabled community or the world of the Paralympics, so it gives me another opportunity to raise awareness at a milestone that we haven't reached before."

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