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Nick aiming to be European champion

A man from Gwynedd is aiming to be European champion in an archery competition in Rome this month.

Nick Thomas, 46, from Talysarn, Dyffryn Nantlle, is confident he can win a gold medal.

Nick – who is married to Marie, 42, and father to Cadi, 14 and Hari, 10, will compete in the European Para-Archery Championship.

He will compete against 10 other shooters from Italy, Romania, Germany, Belgium and Spain.

Nick is registered blind and works as a development officer with the North Wales Society of the Blind in Bangor. This will his third European championship.

Nick has beaten all of his competitors in various competitions over the past year. He said: "No one in this competition scares me. I know I am able enough to beat them all.

"It would be nice to say that I am European champion - the best in Europe in your sport. Hopefully I could then use that as a kind of platform to try to inspire other people to take part not just in archery or sports but show that visually impaired people can still go out and do something worthwhile and still live life after disabilities."

After arriving in Rome on Monday (May 20) Nick will have training sessions. His Great Britain kit will be inspected including his bow and arrows to be within the rules.

There will be qualifying sessions with the archers shooting at a target 30 metres away.

The highest score decides who goes to the next round - 'head to head'.

The top four compete for the gold, silver and bronze medals.

Nick has won gold medals in the British Outdoor and Indoor Championships; one silver at the World Games, two bronzes at the World Championships and one bronze at the European Championships,

Nick said: “The wind is a big factor. If the wind blows strongly. . . it's difficult."

The shooters can use a 'tactile sight' - using one hand to aim.

Nick said: "People who can see can move their sight a little. Our hand is stuck. The archers must try to feel the wind themselves and see if it is strong enough to push the arrow to the side."

"Some people have photophobias where the sun and light can affect the eyes and it can hurt depending on where the sun is. There are a lot of factors you don't think about."

Nick will be competing against other visually impaired shooters. There are a number of different categories.

He said: “There are fans and a lot of talking and shouting. It's something you have to get used to. The only voice I listen out for is my spotter - who tells me where my arrows land on the target."

Nick said: "We use a colour and clock system. If it's three o'clock on the red, I have to move the tactile bar on the bow."

Nick has a sports science degree and is an accomplished athlete. He has been the British 100m and long jump champion and has played five-a-side futsal football for the English visually impaired team - because there was no team in Wales.

He also enjoys climbing and canoeing. He carried the Olympic torch in 2012.

He will fly to Rome early in the morning, Monday May 20th and fly back on Saturday. There won't be much time to see the attractions.

Nick said: "I feel lucky that I'm having these experiences and I am so grateful to my family who have supported me. They have had to sacrifice a lot of time without me to enable me to reach this level.”

Nick's work with the North Wales Society of the Blind in Bangor is to help visually impaired people do tasks and work independently.

He said: “I am extremely grateful for the support of Team GB and I hope that I can encourage more young people who are visually impaired to enjoy sport and do everything with their lives.

"If they would like to know more, they are welcome to contact me or the Society."

nick thomas in a competition