GIRLS have scored a place on the Swiss national netball team after moving to the country from the same village.
Beatrice Elphinstone, 15, and 14-year-old Alice Johnson, from East Boldon, were strangers when they moved to the country, and have now both earned call-ups to the team since moving to Cessy, just across the border in France, in 2004.
The pair met at their new school College du Leman in Versoix, Switzerland, when they noticed they had the same accent and have been close friends since.
Alice’s dad Paul worked for Nissan in Sunderland before the company sent him to France, while Beatrice made the move when mum Johanna was hired by Proctor and Gamble in Geneva.
After trying the sport at school, the girls entered a trial for the national team and were selected, with Switzerland drawing from players of all nationalities as it tries to establish itself in European netball.
“I picked up the sport here in school,” said Alice, who recently returned from an international tournament in Malta playing for the under-15s.
“It’s been fun and very exciting, and having someone with you who has had the same experiences helps.
“I really hope to play in the European Championships in England next year.”
Beatrice said: “I didn’t expect to get it but they picked me and I was very excited. It’s quite a privilege being part of an international team where you can meet other girls from all over Europe and beyond.
“It’s also a great way of keeping fit and healthy.
“It is strange that we met each other but we help each other a lot.”
Proud dad Paul told the Echo about the amazing coincidence: “After we’d moved over, someone heard my wife’s accent and said ‘you’re from Boldon’.
“The girls are doing so well, they just picked it up over here and went along for the trials,” he added.
Beatrice’s miracle birth
BEATRICE and Alice’s meeting some 850 miles from home is an incredible coincidence.
But it’s nothing compared to the story of the former’s miracle birth.
Back in January 1998, the Echo told the story of how the 6lbs 10ozs Beatrice had ended years of heartache for her parents, after being delivered thanks to the skill of surgeons at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Mum Johanna had suffered five miscarriages since giving birth to Beatrice’s sister Alice in the late stages of pregnancies, with two of her children stillborn.
Doctors identified a weakness in the neck of her cervix and, with the help of consultant obstetrician Gaving MacNab, she underwent pioneering surgery to install a suture, allowing her to carry Beatrice safely.
After the birth, Johanna said: “I lost the first baby and we didn’t know why. When I lost the second, I started to get a bit worried.
“A couple of times I’ve had to give birth to babies which have miscarried, which was even worse because I had to go through so much.”