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  • Writer's picturePhil Packer

Winter Paralympian, Double World and European Champion, Talan Skeels-Piggins, joins the BRIT family

We are delighted that Talan has joined our BRIT Ambassador family and is championing the BRIT Challenge to support and improve young adult and student mental health and fitness throughout the UK.

Talan is a Double World Champion, European Champion and Winter Paralympian. As the world’s first paraplegic to hold both motorcycle and car race licences, he lives his life to the very best of his ability.

Talan Skeels-Piggins - Winter Paralympian, Double World Champion and European Champion

“As a former student at the University of Chichester, having spent time competing and training with young elite snow sport athletes, and through my own lived experience of having to adapt to living life with a disability, I know that we must do more support young adults, students and elite athletes in order to avoid them facing long-term mental health difficulties.

The pandemic has affected all our lives, however it has had a disproportionate impact on particular groups in society, particularly those on a low income, people with an existing mental health condition; children and young adults and people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. I am also mindful that the past two years have left many people with disabilities feeling isolated and alone. It's clear that this is a critical time for student mental health and I am encouraged that BRIT are determined to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK by delivering their annual BRIT Challenge.

The annual BRIT Challenge is a feelgood February fundraiser for every university, college, specialist college and Students’ Union to enter teams and encourage student and staff participation. I’m thrilled that the BRIT Challenge is inclusive and enables students and staff of all abilities to take part and work as a team to cover the 2,022 mile distance by either hand-cycling, cycling, wheelchair pushing, swimming, walking, jogging, running, rowing or paddling (canoeing, kayaking or paddle-boarding).

It’s great to see that BRIT have forged partnerships with a wealth of sport and education governing bodies including the British Paralympic Association and the British Ski and Snowboard National Foundation; I hope many more sport governing bodies will see the value of working closely with BRIT and helping to engage more young adults and students in the annual BRIT Challenge.

I am honoured to be part of the BRIT Ambassador family to promote the BRIT Challenge, destigmatise mental health and champion equality, diversity and inclusion. I urge my fellow Paralympians, and Olympians and Elite Athletes, to join our BRIT Ambassador family and assist in encouraging universities, colleges and students to take part in the annual BRIT Challenge. I would be delighted to support and encourage students and staff at the University of Chichester as they take on their BRIT Challenge”.

Talan Skeels-Piggins BA (Hons) MA

Winter Paralympian, Double World Champion and European Champion

Talan Skeels-Piggins - BRIT Ambassador

In 2002, Talan graduated from the University of Chichester with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education Teaching and Coaching.

Paralysed from the chest down in 2003, Talan was an active PE teacher and a serving Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserves. After just eight days of being paralysed, Talan claimed he would learn to ski, get into the National Team and represent Great Britain at the 2010 Winter Paralympics. Seven years later he became Great Britain’s top placed male skier in the Giant Slalom and Super G events at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games.

In 2006, Talan claimed a landmark ruling by becoming the first paraplegic to be retained in the Royal Navy on active service. He continued to serve with NATO, taking charge of Navigational Safety advice at NATO HQ in Northwood during maritime exercises. This ruling enabled more disabled military personnel to continue to serve their country.

Talan was selected to compete for the Great Britain team 14 months after sustaining his injuries and competed in the LW10/1 classification for athletes with paraplegia with no upper abdominal function and no functional sitting balance.

By 2008 he had reached a world ranking of 5th in the downhill event. At the 2009 World Championships in Korea, he finished 31st in the Super-G and improved on that position with a 26th-placed finish at the 2009 World Cup in Whistler.

In 2010 he won two bronze medals at the NorAm Cup in Kimberly, Canada to secure his qualification for the 2010 Winter Paralympics where we competed for Great Britain in the Men’s Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super-G

In recognition of Talan’s achievements he has been awarded an Honorary Masters from Chichester University, become BANES Sports Personality in 2010 and was part of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay during its journey across Great Britain.

In 2011, Talan graduated from the University of Chichester with a Master of Arts degree in Education.

Talan Skeels-Piggins - Double World Champion

Talan entered the history books on 21 June 2012, when he became the first paraplegic to race a motorcycle in an able-bodied race. This has changed the course of motorsport forever, having overcome great odds to achieve something that many thought was impossible. Since then, he has twice become the World Champion 600cc (paralysed class) and became the first paraplegic to become a licenced Motorcycle Race Instructor.

In 2013, Talan won silver in the IPC NorAm Adaptive SBX Competition, becoming the first Monoskier to win IPC medals in both Alpine and Adaptive SBX races.

Talan became the 2015 600cc World Champion (Paralysed category) at the Bridgestone World Cup in Vallelunga, Italy. He also took 2nd place 600cc (all disabled categories).

In 2018, Talan competed again in the Disabled World Championship, with podiums at Le Mans and Magny Cours, he finished second overall in the 600cc class and took First for paralysed riders.

Having taken up archery in 2018, he entered his first competition in 2021: The UK National Masters Age Championship. Shooting in the barebow category he won Gold, missing out on setting a new UK record by only 2 points. This is in able bodied archery as there is no barebow class in para-archery.

Talan Skeels-Piggins

Talan now gives keynote speeches and presentations. His talks are honest, heart-felt and thought provoking. Over the last sixteen years he has given presentations to a wide variety of audiences, from five year olds at primary schools to the senior management of companies, the military and the emergency services.

In 2011, Talan established the ‘The Bike Experience’, as there was no project in existence that taught disabled motorcyclists how to ride. Over a period of ten years the initial idea has become a registered charity and over 400 disabled motorcyclists have learned to ride again. The concept has started to evolve the motorcycling industry worldwide, inspiring other riders in different countries to get back on a bike.

The Bike Experience (TBE) charity is not just about getting riders back on a bike, the charity: Enriches Life, Enhances Self-Belief, Empowers the Individual and Enables Achievement.

From the knowledge gained through the years, the charity has evolved to become more than just helping someone sit on a motorcycle, and so they are there to:

  • Teach and advise disabled people how to ride a motorcycle by using adapted and modified motorcycles which will allow them to ride on track in a safe environment using a logical step by step process

  • Assist with the rehabilitation of the individuals who take part. An event will increase each clients self-confidence and self-belief so that they can look forward to the rest of their life with re-focused energy, empowerment, motivation and inspiration.

  • Educate and advise participants what motorcycle to purchase, how to adapt it, advice on riding at track days independently and safely, or return to the road.

  • Improve the participant’s physical health, balance, co-ordination, strength and stamina

  • Bring together able-bodied and disabled people so that boundaries are broken down and myths of disability are deconstructed

  • Evolve attitudes in the motorcycling world, so that disabled motorcycle riding is seen as possible, feasible and acceptable

In September 2020 his first book, The Little Person Inside, was published. The book is aimed at inspiring children and getting them to believe in their own ability.

To find out more about Disabled Skiing, please visit the Disability Snowsport UK website.

You can follow Talan on Twitter.


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