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The sky's the limit for these young disabled athletes

Brighouse High School pupils Charlotte Hirst and Billie Lambert have overcome severe disabilities to excel at sport

Award-winning athletes Charlotte Hirst (centre) and Billie Lambert, of Brighouse High School, with Thomas Green, of Brooksbank School

Two young athletes have been recognised for overcoming severe disabilities to excel at sport.

Brighouse High School pupils Charlotte Hirst and Billie Lambert, both 14, received awards for overcoming adversity to take part in sporting competitions organised by the charity Panathlon.

Charlotte received the West Yorkshire Outstanding Achievement runner-up trophy and Billie was presented with a Highly Commended award at a special end-of-year school assembly.

They were joined by Elland teenager Thomas Green, the 2017 Outstanding Achievement winner. The 14-year-old Brooksbank School pupil is due to have a leg amputated due to a degenerative bone condition – but did not let that stop him from scaling the UK’s highest artificial climbing wall to raise money for a racing wheelchair and work towards his ambition of competing at the Paralympics.

Charlotte has cerebral palsy and spastic diplegia and uses either a wheelchair or walking aid to get around. She walked for the first time only seven years ago after surgery on her hips and knees followed by intensive physiotherapy.

Charlotte first tried Panathlon competitions in 2015 and immediately loved playing Polybat, boccia and New Age Kurling. She began attending extra-curricular clubs at lunchtime and representing Calderdale at the West Yorkshire School Games. She also has swimming lessons to help build her muscle strength and is looking into starting wheelchair rugby.

Billie Lambert who won Highly Commended in the Panathlon West Yorkshire Outstanding Achievement Award with Brian Bergin, her coach from Halifax Harriers

Billie, who is visually impaired, initially struggled to cope after moving from primary to secondary school, but through Panathlon discovered a talent for running. She joined her local running club, Halifax Harriers and held her own competing against fully sighted pupils. At first, her coach, Brian Burgin, was not aware of her impairment.

Billie has now been given a formal classification (T13) which means she will compete against others with a similar field of vision. Her main events are 100 metres and 200 metres and she is already training within the standard required to qualify for the GB team.

Billie also dances in Freestyle, Contemporary, Rock and Roll and Street competitions, where she has been National Under-13 Street Champion for last two years. She has also competed at National Level with her pairs partner in the Rock and Roll category where they finished first overall.

Brian, who is credited with launching the career of 10-time World Para Athletics gold medallist Hannah Cockroft, says the sky is the limit for Billie.

“She’s running as quick as some of these Paralympians at the World Para Athletics Championships, so she has a hell of a future ahead of her,” he said. “We need to make sure we develop her. In 2020, with a lot of hard work and encouragement, she could easily be at the Paralympic Games. That’s how good she is – she just doesn’t realise it yet!”

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