COULD this be Sunderland’s next Paralympic champion?
Speeding down the slopes in a specially-adapted monoski Brandon Barker, 14, is on the road to becoming a snow sports star.
The Red House youngster was born with spinal cord dysfunction which means he requires a wheelchair to get about, but he has never let it get in the way of his passion for sports.
Four years ago, the Castleview Enterprise Academy pupil took up skiing with charity Sunderland Adaptive Snowsports (SAS) and he hasn’t looked back since.
Mike Stansfield, from SAS, which is based at Oxclose Community School, said: “We took Brandon to France skiing four years ago and again two years ago where he was spotted for his ability.
“He took to it like a duck to ater. The plan now is to get him to a standard where he can progress to the Paralympic Development Squad and, hopefully, gain sponsorship.”
In honour of the youngster’s achievements he has been nominated for a Pride of Wearside award in the sporting achievement category.
Brandon, who in the past has been selected to represent his country in table top cricket, said: “I love skiing. It makes me feel like there are no limits to what I can do.
“It would be great to get on the development squad.
“It’s definitely a dream of mine.”
Brandon, who also has Horner’s Syndrome which affects his left side, is due to undergo an operation on his knees and feet in November to help relieve spasms and straighten his legs.
Despite this, he is still dedicated to his skiing training which he does at a real snow slope in Castleford, Yorkshire.
Brandon’s mum Sarah said: “Brandon has done a lot of other sports such as football but he is brilliant at skiing on a monoski, which is a specially-adapted ski with one blade on a chair.
“He’s gone through so many operations in his life but he has always adapted well and loves doing sport.
“I think the London 2012 Paralympics have really raised the profile of Paralympic sport.
“They say Brandon could even be in the winter Paralympics.”