Mel says ‘I was delighted with my first cycling medals in Zagreb, it was a fantastic trip and really satisfying to see the training pay off. Racing in 41 degs heat was a new experience for me. Equally, going to Medway and winning both gold medals was great, my GB teammate Di Higman (Derby Mercury) and I both stopped the clock at 10.35 in the time trail. It couldn’t have been closer’.
Mel Slaney’s rise to the podium level of international cycling has been a remarkable one. Mel, a former show jumper, suffered kidney failure in 1992 and after 2 years on dialysis she received a lifesaving kidney transplant in November 1996 and has not looked back since.
Taking to a mountain bike to stay fit following the transplant; her interest in racing was sparked when she first watched the cycling event at the British Transplant Games in Sheffield in 2007 and plucked up the courage to enter the event the following year in Bath. In the early years podium success eluded her, partly due to particularly strong riders in her age category, but the cycling bug had well and truly bitten and her results were improving.
Rich Smith, from Mamil Cycling, the coach of the GB Transplant cycling team, saw sufficient potential in Mel to select her for the Great Britain team travelling to the World Transplant Games in Gotenberg, Sweden in 2011. He says ‘Mel’s determination to succeed was clear – she is focused on being the best she can be and her dedication and enthusiasm for the sport is infectious. I knew she would respond well to structured training and so it has proved. She has become an integral part of the GB cycling team’.
Mel’s victories came via hard work over the winter on the road and the dreaded turbo trainer supplemented with a warm weather training camp in Majorca in March. On top of this were visits to Aldersley stadium in Wolverhampton to train on the track with the rest of the GB team and taking part in the regular Matlock CC time trials over the summer.
The next big focus for her is the World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa in 2013. So far, a medal at World level has eluded her but it would be a brave person who bet against her putting that right next year.
Lynne Holt, UK Team Manager for the 2012 European Transplant and Dialysis Games, concludes, “The British, European and World Games aim to raise awareness of the ongoing need for organ donation, demonstrate the benefits to health and fitness following transplantation and encourage people to sign the organ donor register. By staging these events people see the direct benefits of organ donation as they witness these amazing athletes triumph over life-threatening conditions. The competitors are truly inspiring. They have already won the race to live, but are now celebrating being alive to race.”