Melissa Reid: Background, career highlights, quotes

One of the most consistently-successful paratriathletes on the circuit, partially-sighted Melissa Reid is both a para surfing and paratriathlon world champion. Here's her story so far...

melissa reid and guide racing at tokyo 2020 paralympics

Over the last decade or so, Cornwall’s Melissa Reid has been one of the most consistent competitors on the paratriathlon circuit.

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With PTVI (partially sighted) European and world titles to her name, her phenomenal prowess in the water has been the foundation of her long-ranging success.

Who is Melissa Reid?

Reid’s also well known as a para surf champion (Credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Born in Nottingham but raised in Falmouth, partially sighted Reid has amassed an extremely strong palmares since first stepping onto an ITU paratriathlon podium way back in 2011 at the age of 20.

Having started out in para-aquathlon (at which she was world champion no fewer than four times), Reid’s strongest triathlon season – her most decorated, at least – was 2013, when she did the double, scooping both the paratriathlon ETU European and ITU World titles.

Since then, though, there have been plenty of notable performances. For starters, there was the bronze she won at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, which she followed the year after by regaining the paratriathlon European crown.

More recently, there have been a couple of paratriathlon World Cup golds, while appearances on ITU podiums have been a constant fixture of her career. Reid is one of the most consistent paratriathletes around.

Her world-conquering prowess doesn’t end with multisport. Raised as a Cornwall beach baby, Reid can also boast being a three-time world para surfing champion. Truly an athlete for all seasons.

How old is Melissa Reid?

Melissa Reid was born on 15 November 1990, making her 31 years of age.

Melissa Reid’s career highlights

Reid races with a guide in the PTVI paratri class (Credit: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

August 2011: A first ITU podium place

Reid makes her breakthrough when the ITU World Championship Series pitches up in London. Competing on home (ish) turf, she takes silver in the TRI-6 category.

October 2012: A maiden multisport world title

At the age of 21, Reid travels to Auckland where she takes paratri (TRI-6) gold at the ITU Aquathlon world championships. She retains the title the following year in London, before two further world crowns in the event in Edmonton in 2014 and Chicago in 2015.

June 2013: Reid’s first major triathlon crown

For the bike leg, Reid takes the back seat of a tandem which her guide steers (Credit: Nobuo Yano/Getty Images)

In the Turkish resort of Alanya, Reid takes gold at the ETU Triathlon European championships. She’s now officially Europe’s best female triathlete in the TRI-6b category (previous classification referring to visually impaired).

September 2013: A world-conquering performance in the capital

Back on the streets of her happy hunting-ground of London, Reid upgrades her European crown for a world championship one.

She wins comfortably, finishing more than two minutes ahead of the silver medallist, Spain’s Susana Rodriguez. Reid’s compatriot Charlotte Ellis takes the bronze.

September 2016: Taking her place on the Paralympic podium

After a few seasons of consistent paratri podium places in both ITU and ETU events, hopes are high in Rio.

Although the ultimate glory proves elusive, Reid does at least return to Cornwall with a medal in her luggage, having taking paratri bronze behind Australia’s Katie Kelly and her GB team-mate Alison Peasgood.

June 2017: A second European title

Reid is attached to her guide by a tether during the run and swim sections (Credit: Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Four years after first being crowned European champion, Reid returns to the throne when she beats all-comers in the PTVI category in Kitzbühel.

She coolly holds off the threat of Susana Rodriguez and Lena Dieter, while fellow Brit Alison Peasgood, who beat her at the Paralympics nine months earlier, finishes in fourth.

June 2019: Twin World Cup victories

Having missed an entire season due to a prolapsed disc, Reid returns to competition in imperious form.

She takes the win at the ITU Paratriathlon World Cup in Besancon in eastern France, following up with another win the following month at the series event in Magog in Canada.

August 2021: Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Reid finished seventh at Tokyo 2020 (Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Reid comes up against tough competition along the futuristic race course around Tokyo’s Odaiba Park. She holds onto a top-10 finish, though, achieving seventh place overall in the PTVI class.

Melissa Reid quotes

On refusing to let being visually impaired be a barrier to success: “Sport was a big influence in my upbringing. As soon as someone tried to exclude me – ‘Oh, you need to go over there with the other kids who are visually impaired’ – I just gave them the finger and said I wasn’t going to do it.”

On finding the positives of the pandemic: “In lockdown, our village has been empty, whereas normally it’s quite touristy. So training was really enjoyable, being able to run over the coastal path and not come across anybody.”

On the differences between the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016 and those in Tokyo five years later: “The competition has definitely improved from last time. A lot of girls have stepped up their game and there are quite a few newcomers to the sport. It’s really good to see the sport grow.”

What’s next for Melissa Reid?

Still only a whisker into her thirties, Reid will be wondering whether another world title – to match the one she won nearly a decade ago – is a realistic prospect. She’s also set to race at the Commonwealth Games at the end of July. 

A little further away are the 2024 Paralympic Games. After a disappointing seventh place in Tokyo in 2021, another tilt at another Paralympic medal is a difficult carrot to resist.

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Top image: Yasuyoshi Chiba / Getty Images