By Duncan Mackay
December 3 - Pearl Jam, one of the biggest and most popular rock bands in history, have stunned a young Australian Paralympic cyclist training for London 2012 by agreeing to sponsor her.
The American band, who have sold over 60 million records around the world, made the promise during a concert at the Adelaide Oval after receiving a letter from Melissa Leckie, who represented Australia at last year's Beijing Paralympics in hand cycling.
In front of more than 20,000 people, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder read the letter from 25-year-old Leckie, detailing her plight to fund her passage to the Paralympics.
Vedder then promised the band’s support, offering her "a couple of grand to help make it to London".
Leckie said: "I was crying and I couldn’t even speak.
"I nearly fell out of my wheelchair.
"I'm an Australian asking Americans to help me get to the Paralympics, I mean, there is nothing in it for them.
"It's like being in the Paralympics - you wonder did it really happen."
Leckie, who is paralysed from the stomach down, finished sixth and eighth in Beijing.
She said: "I am arms only [athlete], I don't have any stomach muscles and I was competing with people that could kneel."
She spent the months leading up to the Games busking with her bike Adelaide so she could afford to go.
Leckie (pictured) decided to write to Pearl Jam, her favourite band, when she heard that they were coming to Adelaide.
She said: "A couple of days before [the concert] I decided to write this in a letter to Pearl Jam and sent one to Vedder, Jeff [Ament], Stone [Gossard], Mike [McCready] and Matt [Cameron].
"One of the letters I even threw over the fence outside their [tour] vans.
"I had absolutely no idea if they had even received it or read it.
"I thought if you don't ask, you don’t really know [what can happen].”
Leckie says the boost has come at the perfect time, as she is nearing the end of her teaching degree at the University of South Australia and is ready to get back into full-time training.
She said: "In front of 20,000 people, that’s the biggest publicity possible for me.
"It will definitely get me back into gear.
"As far as motivation goes, if this isn't the biggest kick up the arse I don’t know what is."
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