Deanna 'Di' Coates MBE competed at eight consecutive Paralympic Games from 1984 to 2012. Starting with the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games, winning three gold, three silver and two bronze medals in air rifle events.

Isabel Newstead and Deanna Coates at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics with their winning medalsDi and her team mate Isabel Newstead with their medals at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Early life

Di was born in Hampshire on the 23rd of May 1954 with spina bifida. In the 1970s she joined the local Rushmoor Mallards Sports Club for the Disabled in Aldershot. Di tried table tennis, archery, swimming and bowling before, with encouragement from Derek Phillips, taking up shooting which she didn’t like at first because she had three brothers who shot air rifles in the garden, and she hated the noise. 

It was also here that she first met Ron Nicholls, coach and Chairman of the Paraplegic Rifle and Pistol club, who she described as a ‘quiet unassuming person.’

Life as a Paralympic athlete

Di’s debut was at the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games where, from four events, she won two silver and one bronze medals. This would prove to be the start of a long international career. Jokily recalling these Games, she described the stripy jackets as ‘prison jackets’ and mocked her own hairstyle which she compared to that of footballer Kevin Kegan, who she was a big fan of. 

The Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games saw her win three golds, with a silver in Atlanta and her final Paralympic Games medal was a bronze at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Di went on the compete in the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games but was unable to finish in a medal winning position.

Di with the ParalympicsGB shooting team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics

In January 2011 she was a member of the British disabled team at the Hell Open in Norway, where they competed against non-disabled shooters. The unique format of the competition saw athletes compete on three consecutive days in the same events or in a combination of events during the championship. Di shot 397 out of 400 in the R2 Air Rifle, an international personal best, a final of 103.7, finishing with a total of 500.7 1.4 points higher than the world record of South Korean, Kim Im Yeon, and 599 out of 600 in the R3 10m Air Rifle.

At the age of fifty-eight, Di was Britain’s most experienced Paralympian at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and, having competed at the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games, the only member of the team to have previously competed at a home Games.

Watch an interview with Di here.

Di was shortlisted for the 2012 Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award, awarded at the end of each Paralympic Games to a competitor who has shown themselves to be:

fair, honest and uncompromising in his or her values, and prioritises the promotion of the Paralympic Movement above personal recognition.

Disappointed with her performance, Di ultimately decided not to pursue her dream of a ninth medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.


In an interview with Vicky Hope-Walker, NPHT CEO, Di recalls her memories of Ron Nicholls, Team Manager.

How he was incredibly well-respected amongst their peers and described him as the ‘do it all person’ who attended most of the Games, including Sydney. Di did not know much about his early life other than the fact that he started powerlifting in the late 50s to early 60s. She recalls that he started shooting in the huts at Stoke Mandeville with his sidekick Tony Higgs, a friend and volunteer, in the 1960s. They then set up shooting at the Spinal Injuries Centre at Wakefield hospital. 

Di Coates draws similarities between Ron Nicholls and Sir Ludwig Guttmann due to his dedication and support of using sport in rehabilitation. Ron coached sports such as disability powerlifting which she recalls at the Toronto Paralympic Games.  

Retirement as a Paralympic athlete

Following the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Di took time out before moving on to coach the British Shooting Disability Talent Squad. In November 2015 she was added to the Disability Shooting Great Britain Roll of Approved Instructors and Coaches as a National Governing Body (NGB) Assistant Rifle Coach and National Small-bore Rifle Association (NSRA) YTS Instructor.

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

At the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games, Di won silver in both the Women’s Air Rifle Kneeling 2-6 and Women’s Air Rifle Standing 2-6, along with a bronze in the Women’s Air Rifle 3 Positions 2-6.

The Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games saw her win gold in the Women’s Air Rifle Standing 2-6.

She went on to add gold in the Mixed Air Rifle Standing SH1>3 at the Barcelona 1992 and gold for the Women’s Air Rifle Standing SH1 and silver in the Women’s Air Rifle 3x20 SH1 at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games.

At the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games she won bronze in the Women’s Air Rifle Standing SH1.

Other sporting events

Di with the British shooting team at the 1994 World Championships, Linz, Austria. Bottom L-R Steph Park (coach), Dorothy Ripley, Isabel Newstead, Di Coates, Karen Butler, Paul Pantzer and Kieth Morriss. Top left, Team manager Ron Nicholls.

Di has won many medals and records representing Great Britain at the World, International and European Shooting Championships in individual and team para shooting events. In fact so many that it they are almost impossible to count!

Other awards and recognition

In 1996 Di was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).