Couple behind ‘Spennylympics’ fundraiser awarded MBEs

A couple from Abingdon took on a seemingly impossible task – to complete every Olympic sport during the 17 days of the Tokyo Olympics. Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates did so to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, smashing their GBP10,000 target and achieving almost 20 times that. They named this crazy feat the ‘Spennylympics’ after Bates’ brother Spencer, who passed away from Motor Neurone Disease in 2011, aged 49.

The Tokyo Olympics in 2021 marked the 10 year anniversary of his death. Attempting to complete 102 sporting events including a marathon and a 204km cycle in just 17 days was no easy task, and the pair had to train and seek assistance from experts in the field – quite literally. They reached out to Olympic ambassadors who were all too eager to help them on this sporting journey.

: Burford retiree who raised GBP10,000 for Ukraine on his hopes to do it again Stuart, aged 52, told OxfordshireLive: “There were over 50 different sports, almost every single one we had never done before so we reached out to 60 Olympic ambassadors, so ex-Olympians, to help us. We had Holly Bradshaw teaching us how to pole vault, she is the British record holder, we had the synchronised swimming pair that went to Tokyo teach us our own routine, we learnt to box – we had to learn everything.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing; during the training, Stuart fell from a horse and Charlotte had to be rescued from a lake during what the pair described as “a very intense period”. Despite the dips, the couple from Abingdon received worldwide recognition with the Spennylympics being broadcast “in over 50 countries”. They managed to raise GBP180,000 through their efforts for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, and have now been awarded MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2022.

Stuart said he felt “absolute, complete shock” when he realised he was being awarded an MBE. “We had no inclination that it was going to happen whatsoever, we hadn’t even considered it,” he said.

Charlotte and Stuart with pole vaulting pro, Holly Bradshaw

“When the envelope came through from the Cabinet Office, we had no idea what it was going to say. We literally thought ‘Oh they are going to ask us to be spies’; that was more logical in our brains than receiving an MBE. I am so incredibly proud of what we did and why we did it.

For me, these MBEs are above and beyond all else for Spenny, they’re in recognition of all he did and his incredible family.” Charlotte, a 22-year-old medical student said they will “definitely” keep going with some of the sports they discovered during their fundraising. She said: “This summer we are going to go down and do some more sailing and I am sure we will do some sort of shooting and climbing, things like that as a bit of fun because they were brilliant.”

The pair wanted to “shine a light” on Motor Neurone Disease and fund much-needed research to combat fatalities. After the Spennylympics concluded, the government announced they would give the MND Association and other bodies researching the disease GBP50m a year. Want more human interest stories?

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