Wheelchair fencer Piers Gilliver has won the Athletes’ Athlete of the Month award for July after earning two gold medals at the Warsaw World Cup.
Gilliver’s achievement was particularly impressive given it followed his return from a six-month lay-off due to concussion, the symptoms of which he continues to face.
He won the Category A épée before going on to triumph in the Category A sabre, overcoming home favourite Michal Siatkowski 15-14 in a nail-biting round of 32.
After sustaining a concussion in training in January, the 28-year-old fencer had previously tried to return to World Cup action but ended up withdrawing as his recovery continued. His involvement in Warsaw followed spells in which Gilliver couldn’t leave home – let alone train – such was the extent of his concussion.
In an award facilitated by the British Elite Athletes Association, he was recognised for his success by his peers on the World Class Programme, who exclusively decide the Athlete of the Month.
Speaking to the BEAA, Piers said: “It was a really big surprise and it means a huge amount to be voted for by the athlete community. It means a lot to be respected by your peers, and there are some amazing athletes in this country. So it really means a huge amount to me.
“In this last competition I had no expectation at all, I just wanted to be able to fence, to do the first match, probably lose and that was fine – I just wanted to be on-piste.
“I’d had no competition practice, so the goal was to turn up for one event. After the first event it was such a shock and the second day was also a question from the start: will it be too much and set me back? On the morning I felt okay so made the decision to give it a go, and to win gold in that was very surreal. It was beyond all expectations.”
Gilliver topped a nominee list comprised of Maria Lyle (para-athletics), Matt Richards (swimming) and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix and Lois Toulson (diving) jointly.
The Athletes’ Athlete of the Month award is given to elite British sportspeople for their achievements in competition or elsewhere, such as personal development, inspiring comebacks, charity work, awareness raising and more.
It celebrates successes across elite British sport, and commends more than just competitive accomplishment – with every winner decided by the athlete community.
Thank you to every athlete who voted, and congratulations to Piers for winning, as well as to Maria, Matt, Andrea and Lois for their nominations.
Elite British athletes, to cast your vote next time, keep an eye on your emails from the BEAA!