SPORTS stars developed on Wearside were among the big winners at an annual awards event for athletes with disabilities.
Ryan Spencer and Nicole Lough both took honours at the North East Disability Sports Awards, held at the Durham Centre in Belmont.
Karate star Ryan represented his country on both the European and world stage in 2013, despite suffering from rare bone disease HME.
He picked up the Young Male Achiever gong.
“I want to be a role model for other kids with disabilities and show that you can achieve anything so long as you put your mind to it, so I’m really proud to have won this award,” said Ryan, who is a member of Sendai Kushiro Karate Club.
“Over the next year, I want to get back competing so I can attend the European Championships that are taking place later this year in Zurich.”
Swimmer Nicole won the Female Personality honour after a year in which she overcame adversity.
She picked up bronze at the IPC Swimming World Championships in the SB14 100m breaststroke competition, but the road to the final was a hard one for her.
She was diagnosed with Raynaud’s phenomenon before the championships began, and also picked up a painful knee injury, meaning she was on crutches until the day before the race.
Following the presentation, Nicole, a member of Sunderland Amateur Swimming Club, said: “I wasn’t expecting to win.
“It’s been amazing and I’m really surprised.
“In April I’m hoping to qualify for the European Championships, so I’m concentrating on that.”
Other winners included Jarrow Paralympic gold medallist Josef Craig, who took home the Male Personality honour, while the Young Female Achiever award was won by Peterlee’s Megan Atkinson, who scooped a number of medals at the World Dwarf Games in America.
Jean Lordon, executive director of Tees Valley Sport, said: “It’s great to have the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of these participants, coaches and clubs.”