As It Happens

This couple is recreating the Tokyo Olympics, with just the 2 of them as competitors

Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates are holding their own version of the Tokyo Games, in which they’ll be the only competitors. They’re calling it the Spennylympics, in honour of Bates’ late Brother, Spencer, who died of ALS in 2011.

Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates will compete in every Summer Games sport in honour of Bates' late brother

Stuart Bates, centre left, and Charlotte Nichols, centre right, are flanked by their boxing coaches as they train to perform every sport from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in honour of Bates' late brother, Spencer. (Submitted by Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates)

Story Transcript

Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates are holding their own version of the Tokyo Olympics, in which they'll be the only athletes. 

The British couple is training in dozens of sports for their two-person Summer Games. When all is said and done, they'll have competed against each other in every summer Olympic sport, including pole vaulting, boxing, sailing and equestrian show jumping.

"We're trying to keep it as close to the Olympics as we can. So we're doing the full distances of all of the events, the full road race cycle of 240 kilometres, a full marathon, a full Olympic triathlon, everything," Nichols told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue. 

"If it's in the Olympics, we'll be doing it."

They're calling it the Spennylympics, in honour of Bates' late Brother, Spencer, who died of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011. And they're using the event to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

'She's as mad as I am'

Bates says he first thought of the idea years ago, but was too nervous to pitch it to his partner. 

"It just seemed so ridiculously impossible that I didn't mention it," he said. "And then as soon as I actually got the courage up to speak to Charlotte and say, 'Look, I really fancy doing this,' she's as mad as I am. She said, 'That's the best thing I've ever heard. We have to do it.'"

While there are more than 300 Olympic events planned for Tokyo, those include men's, women's and team events. To avoid duplication, the couple has cut it down to 96 separate events across 46 sports — most of which they've never tried before.

"Let's be honest, there are so many different opportunities for things to go wrong and for us to injure ourselves horrendously. Conversely, we're absolutely excited by all of them," Bates said. 

From left to right, Bates trains in boxing, Nichols practices weightlifting, and Bates tries his hand at sailing. (Submitted by Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates)

But they're not going at it alone. They've been getting plenty of help from their community in and around Oxford, England, with athletes offering up training services, and venues donating equipment and space. Friends, family and supporters will join them for the team sports. 

"We learned to show jump, having never written a horse before, in a couple of weeks, which was absolutely amazing. We also learned a lovely little dressage routine with the help of one of our great friends who happens to have a horse in the village, which is great," Nichols said.

She's particularly keen to take on Bates in a boxing match.

"I'm feeling confident. You know, I've played rugby my whole life. I've got some good skills in the bag that I can put out any minute," she said. "So yeah, I think I've got that one."

Nichols, left, and Bates, right, pose at a statue of the Olympics rings. (Submitted by Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates)

Bates says he can't think of a better way to honour his late brother, who he says was an "absolute legend" and his personal hero.

"Spenny and I were both very similar. When the Olympics came around, we would think that we were experts when we weren't," he said.

Given the good-natured competition between the two brothers, Bates said, if Spencer were here, "he would loving seeing me struggle, seeing me suffer, seeing me in pain." 

"But he'd be so proud knowing that Charlotte and I are doing this with his memory in mind to raise money. He was a passionate ... fundraiser for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, and we've just taken that mantle. And I just know he's with us every step of the way."

The couple has set a fundraising goal of £10,000 ($17,290 Cdn), but would be thrilled to surpass it.

"The need of a cure and for effective treatment is just so huge that we want to raise every penny, every cent, every nickel, every dime that we can. This is affecting people all over the world," Bates said.

"Once this is over, we won't stop. We will continue, whether it's the Spenny Winter Olympics or whatever challenge comes next; we won't stop until there's a cure."


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Charlotte Nichols and Stuart Bates produced by Niza Lyapa Nondo.

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