North West

The Athlete Mentors in the North West region.

We are delighted to offer the expertise of these elite and inspirational Athlete Mentors who each bring years of experience that will benefit your pupils.

Charlotte Hartley

Charlotte started playing hockey at high school after being encouraged by her PE teacher. Her talent for the sport was obvious; she quickly progressed to representing the North of England and then competing on the England U16 team. Charlotte was bullied at primary school for being good at sport, the stress of which resulted in her developing alopecia (hair loss) causing more bullying. Despite this setback Charlotte believes that the experience made her even more determined to become the best athlete she could be. Charlotte went on to play for both England U18 and U21 and at the age of 17 was playing for the England Senior B team. In 2005 she was called up to play in the KT Cup in Korea for the England Senior Team, winning gold in that tournament.

Charlotte’s proudest achievement came in 2006 when she was one of the youngest members selected to represent England at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. The following year she represented Great Britain in the Sydney Youth Olympics where her team won gold. Unfortunately shortly after this Charlotte developed an eating disorder which ended her international career. In 2009/2010 Charlotte played professionally for clubs in New Zealand and Spain but has now retired from professional sport and concentrates on her career as an athlete mentor for a wide range of different programmes and her work with the Youth Sport Trust.

Sporting Achievements
  • Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist
Claire Cashmore

Claire was born without a left forearm, but despite her disability she took to swimming at just six years old. Her first major achievement came at just at the 2004 Paralympics. As the youngest female member of the team, she won a bronze medal in the SM9 200m Individual Medley and S9 100m Backstroke. In the same year, Claire won the BBC Midlands Young Disabled Sports Person of the Year Award after winning a gold medal at the British Championships. She also picked up the ITV Sporting Midlander of the Year, NPower Young Female Achiever and WASP Disability Person of the Year awards. 

Claire has enjoyed more than a decade at the top of her sport, winning individual medals at every major championship she has been to. At the 2013 IPC World Championships, Claire achieved two gold medals, along with one silver and one bronze. In 2014 she won a dramatic gold medal at the IPC Swimming European Championships, sharing the title with Russia’s Oleysa Vladykina following a dead heat. There was also gold in 4x100m medley relay. Claire had a successful Rio 2016, winning silver in the 100m butterfly S9 before claiming her first ever Paralympic gold medal in the 4x100m medley – in which Team GB’s women broke the world record. 

Sporting Achievements
  • Paralympic Gold and Silver Medallist
  • Multiple European Champion and Medallist
Courtney Fry

Courtney started boxing at the age of 15 when he was introduced to the sport by his father, who recognised the need to channel Courtney’s excess energy into something positive to avoid him getting into trouble. He quickly grew to love the sport and won his first title after only five bouts. Courtney’s career as an amateur boxer rapidly took off and he was Great British number one for seven years. Boxing has taken him around the world and he has competed at the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and the Olympic Games, reaching a top world ranking of number three.

Courtney was one of two boxers to qualify for the Sydney Olympics but he was plagued with injuries and personal problems which led to a disappointing performance. Still ranked number one in Great Britain, Courtney continued to box but had lost some motivation and desire. He later signed on to the professional ranks, where he continued to achieve sporting triumphs. Courtney hung up his boxing gloves in 2011, but he has since come out of retirement and got back into title contention. In 2014, he had the opportunity and boxed Roy Jones Jnr., who many people considered as the best pund-for-pound fighter in the world at the time. Courtney has worked with young people for a number of years and has gained his Level 3 in Sports Mentoring.

Sporting Achievements
  • Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist & European Silver Medallist
  • British Masters Winner
Craig McCann

Craig is a British National Champion Paracyclist and wheelchair fencer. After a routine medical examination he had upon joining the Royal Air force in 2004, doctors discovered a brain tumour that would leave Craig disabled. He had to forgo his dream of fighting for his country and instead, after the long rehabilitation, went on to study Business at University. He then headed to post graduate school to pursue a career in law but, little did he know, life had other plans for him. During his last year of University, Craig had been scouted through the Paralympic Potential program by the British Disabled Fencing Association. Turning international whilst at Post Graduate law school he put his law career on hold and began training as a full-time athlete. In 2010, during only his first year as an international athlete, Craig was selected to represent Great Britain at both European and World Championships, as well as for his first Paralympic Games in 2012 only two years after taking up the sport. But he soon realised that changes within the sport meant he wouldn’t be able to fulfil his new-found dream of winning a Paralympic gold medal. It was this realisation that caused Craig to switch sports.

Whilst initially taking time out from sport to refocus and consider other options, Craig took part in the 2013 Deloitte Ride Across Britain as an Ambassador for Paralympics GB and it was through that experience that he fell in love with the sport of cycling and a new challenge became clear. In 2014, Craig became the T2 British National Champion and is now one of the few elite athletes who can claim a British number one ranking in two entirely different sports. Since the disability changed the course of Craig’s life, leaving him unable to fulfil his dream of representing his country in the Royal Air Force, his philosophy is that he still represents his country albeit in a different uniform. This mindset enables Craig to enjoy the different journey on which life has taken him.

Sporting Achievements
  • Paralympian
  • National Paracycling Champion
  • British Number 1 in Two Sports
Jenna Downing

Jenna is the world’s number one female inline skater and ten times British Champion. A natural competitor, Jenna has competed in rollerblading events since she was eight and became the youngest ever female to turn pro aged 12. Since then she has represented her country across the globe in major international events, scooping the NASS title three times over, winning an X-Games silver medal in 2002 and becoming LG Action Sports World Champion in 2008. To date, she is the only European female to perform the 900-degree spin. Growing up in a deprived area, Jenna had to work hard to get to where she is today whilst facing a multitude of obstacles. As an Athlete Mentor she hopes to show young people that whatever their background or circumstances it is possible to achieve anything they choose to in life.

Sporting Achievements
  • World Champion
Neil Danns

Growing up, Neil represented his county as a footballer, but it was skateboarding that led to him becoming a top athlete.In a bus station aged 14, Neil heard some music and first witnessed skateboarders in action. He went home, built a skateboard from a plank of wood and his sister’s roller-boots and never looked back. Neil became a completely self-taught skateboarder. His talent earned him sponsorship from a local shop and an introduction to the English Skateboarding Association. He was invited to take part in his first major competition aged 17 and won his first British Championship aged 22.

Neil was soon repeatedly winning European and British titles, whilst travelling the world representing the UK. Neil’s career wasn’t without setbacks. The complexity and physical challenges of skateboarding saw him suffer severe injuries. Yet he continually returned from injury, pushing himself through rehabilitation to continue competing. Neil retired from skateboarding in 2005 and today runs Team Extreme, the UK’s only professional BMX team, alongside fellow Athlete Mentor Mike Mullen.

Sporting Achievements
  • European & British Champion
Rik Waddon

Rik suffers from cerebral palsy. He took up cycling in 1991 at the age of 14 after being inspired by watching the Tour de France as a youngster. He knew little about disability sport at the time, and, as such, would compete in able-bodied races where he achieved some minor successes. In 2001 Rik began to compete in disability cycling and was selected to train with the Great Britain team just months later. He was invited to join a world-class performance program which enabled him to receive lottery funding. A broken ankle in 2004 hindered Rik’s progress for the 2004 Olympic selection and he was placed as first reserve. However, since then, Rik has shown great consistency, bringing home medals from most major competitions. At the 2008 Beijing Games, Rik made his Paralympic debut, taking the silver medal in the 1km Time Trial CP3 behind his team-mate Darren Kenny.

On his second Games appearance, Rik won silver in the C1-5 mixed Team Sprint alongside Paralympics GB team mates Darren Kenny and Jon-Allan Butterworth. The trio broke the existing world record twice on the day of competition, but finished in 2nd place just 0.065 seconds behind China. Rik has now switched his attention to road time trialling, an event that has been his real passion since he was a teenager. His first target is to become the UCI Paraclying road time trial world champion – and the second is to win gold at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

Sporting Achievements
  • Double Paralympian
  • World Team Sprint Champion
Sophie Cox

Sophie started judo at the age of just six at a local club. She started competing at 8 and won her first gold medal in the under 28kg category at the North West Open. She progressed quickly through the ranks and achieved 7th place at the Youth Olympics, a bronze medal at the Junior Europeans and 5th place at the Junior World Championships. She continued to train hard, and as judo was a fairly low profile sport in the UK, finding funding to support her ambition was tough. Her perseverance paid off when, at the age of 21, Sophie won her first major senior medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

In 2003, an elbow dislocation threatened to end Sophie’s hopes of competition at the 2004 Olympic Games but Sophie worked hard to qualify and put in a sound performance. In 2005 Sophie’s training centre was dissolved and she retired from the sport. After 5 years, Sophie returned to competing and earned a place on the British team once more. A succession of good performances led her to qualify for Team GB at London 2012. Sophie is still training and competing and hopes to win more major medals. She is also actively involved with coaching and nurturing young talent.

Sporting Achievements
  • Double Olympian
  • British Champion
  • Commonwealth Bronze Medallist
  • Double European Silver Medallist