Inspirational karate kid Ryan Spencer is heading to Greece for the European championships.
The 19-year-old, who is a student at the University of Sunderland, is hoping to clinch gold this year after two years of scooping silver at the event.
Ryan has been living with a rare bone condition for almost 11 years, Hereditary Multiple Exostoses (HME), which sees lumps growing on his bones and causes incredible pain.
The condition affects just one in every 50,000 people and despite the problems it causes Ryan has gone on to become one of the nation’s most promising young karate stars and represents his country on the Karate Union of Great Britain’s England karate team.
He said: “I’m feeling excited but nervous being this close before the competition starts. I’m hoping to do well, it’s a very hard competition as every fight you’re in - you’re fighting the best from their country.
The teenager dedicates at least six hours a week to karate training with instructor John James Bruce at Sendai Kushio Karate Club and also trains with the England squad in Liverpool nine times a year.
Ryan continues to be an inspiration and ambassador for all of usMorc Coulson
The teenager, who hopes to become a PE teacher, said: “It is a privilege just to be on the England squad, to be selected to fight is even more of an honour.
“The bone condition bothers me sometimes, but I have got the mind set to forget about it because I want to be the best that I can be.”
Ryan, from Chester-le-Street, is the youth chairman for the HME Support Group and his mother, Christine, is the chairman.
He said: “I want to be able to show young people that although they may have a disability they can do sport and achieve despite their limitations.”
Christine said: “We are extremely proud of Ryan and his achievements. It is certainly a great honour to represent your country and we are hopeful that the whole team will do well.”
Ryan has had to undergo four painful operations since he was first diagnosed at the age of eight.
Morc Coulson, a sports and exercise lecturer at the University of Sunderland, said: “Ryan continues to be an inspiration and ambassador for all of us at the university. Ryan never refers to or mentions his condition yet approaches every session at university with a positive and fun-loving demeanour.
“Because of his attitude and determination it is of no surprise to me that Ryan has achieved the success that he has. We are proud to have him as a student at this university and I am sure that he will continue to achieve in whatever walk of life he goes on to pursue.”