May 16, 2013, by Fraser

Olympian Bryan Steel to raise aspirations at May Fest

From overweight troublemaker with learning difficulties to Olympic glory on two wheels – it’s been quite a journey for Beeston boy Bryan Steel. That’s why he is using his position as one of life’s high achievers to inspire others to find that thing – whatever it is – they are really good at.

And, as he’s Nottingham born and bred, 44-year-old Bryan is keen to get through to the people from his hometown and raise aspirations. So the cyclist turned motivational speaker is taking to the stage at The University of Nottingham’s May Fest on Saturday 18 May to talk to the assembled masses.

“I was a disaffected young person, struggling in this world, not very sporty at all,” said Bryan. “Then my brother started cycling and I had to go along every week. So my dad bought me a bike and asked me to give it a go.

“I hated sport, did it really begrudgingly to keep my dad happy – and then within three years I was on the national team. And within seven years I went to my first Olympic Games. I just really want to get across to young people that anything is possible. Everyone has a talent, but it’s about taking opportunities and believing in yourself.

“I’ve got quite a lot of learning difficulties and suffer from dyslexia. I was overweight, unfit, hated school and got a bit bored. I started to get into trouble because I felt like I was padding time. I kept thinking ‘what am I doing here?’

“Once you start down that route, you need a big jolt – and for me that was getting on a bike.”

Silver and bronze

And Bryan certainly achieved a lot while in the saddle, competing at four Olympics in team pursuit; winning bronze at Sydney in 2000 and silver at Athens four years later. Bryan has now lent his support to a number of charities including designing and delivering athlete support programmes for gifted and talented schemes in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

But it’s not just young people that Bryan wants to help. Bryan will be joined at May Fest by Ossie Newell MBE, stroke survivor and co-chair of the University’s Stroke Rehabilitation Research consumer group. Ossie campaigns for better stroke services and has first-hand experience of using motivational tools – like Bryan’s – for his own rehabilitation.

Ossie, now 77, had a stroke 13 years ago but was determined to regain his quality of life. He said: “I think being a sportsman in my younger days helped me to slip in with the recovery of rehab – rather like the Olympians talk about. It took me two years to learn to write again but I’ve recovered 95 per cent use of my arm and hand now.”

Since then Ossie has written four books, made a film, argued with the Health Secretary in Parliament and received an MBE from the Queen.

“I really did think in those early days that the best thing would be for me to die – and for the family. How wrong can you be? What’s happened to me since has been absolutely incredible.”

That’s why Bryan is teaming with Stroke UK to help stroke survivors. He said: “We’re going to incorporate some of the similar processes for people who are trying to recover from stroke – focusing on the little things and talking responsibility and having a big impact on their rehabilitation.”

Be the best you can be

Bryan’s talk – be the best you can be – takes place 11.45am-12.45pm in the Senate Chamber, Trent Building, University Park.

May Fest runs from 11am-5.30pm at University Park Campus and a programme containing a detailed map will be handed out on arrival. For further information about the activities, sessions and debates being held, visit

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