Royal Navy sailor once given 'final warning' for poor fitness now set to compete at Winter Olympics for Team GB
A SAILOR who was once given a final warning by the Royal Navy for her poor fitness is now preparing to represent Great Britain at the Winter Olympics as an ‘elite athlete’.
Inspirational Melanie Haslam is gearing up to compete with the British bobsleigh team at Beijing 2022 after having made her international debut in the sport in January.
The 32-year-old, who is also a world record-holding powerlifter, has now been granted ‘elite athlete’ status by the navy to help her prepare for her Olympic debut.
But Mel – who is now one of the navy’s physical training gurus charged with keeping sailors slim and strong – used to dread her fitness tests.
And in 2011, after six years of military service, she was given a final warning for her poor fitness levels.
It was only when she served on the front-line as an intelligence exploitation officer in Afghanistan did her life turn around.
‘There aren’t many people who can say that they’ve been to war, but it was a real eye-opener that completely changed my perspective of the world,’ she said.
‘I worked hard in Afghanistan on improving my lifestyle and managed to lose three and a half stone in the process, but when I returned my fitness test still filled me with fear.
‘When I took the test, I passed so well that the Physical Training Instructor suggested with that score I should be doing his job.
‘I’d never even considered being a PTI but thought why not and what a story that would be to help encourage others.’
Two years after excelling at the fitness test, Mel qualified as a PTI in 2015 and is now a Leading Physical Trainer based at Gosport’s HMS Sultan.
She said the transfer ‘exposed her to so many different sports’.
‘I realised I was quite well built, so when an Eastern Region Powerlifting event came up, I thought I’d give it a try,’ she added.
‘I broke a Royal Navy record for deadlift and went on to do the same again as part of the Royal Navy powerlifting team.’
From there, Mel smashed records at both the British Drugs Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA) south west competition and the British championships.
She then bagged the world record at the world championships in February 2019.
Outside the world of powerlifting, Mel had been part of the UK military’s skeleton team – a role which led to her being invited to try out for Team GB’s bobsleigh squad.
‘I’m well suited for the sport, as the breakwoman’s role is very similar to powerlifting in that it relies on explosive power and technique, with the starting position for a deadlift also the same as you need in the back of a sled,’ she said.
Mel's achievement has left Sultan’s commanding officer, Captain John Voyce, ‘delighted’.
‘I am proud of LPT Haslam and her journey to elite status. Elite athletes make an important contribution to our service ethos not least by providing inspiration to other service personnel to strive to be the best they can be,’ he said.
Mel added: ‘Not many people will find a job which will support them in training full time to achieve their sporting dreams, but the Royal Navy has given me the remarkable opportunity to fulfil my potential as an elite athlete.
‘I’m proud to be part of the Royal Navy; for me it’s all about representing the flag and putting on the uniform, with all its traditions, on the world stage.’