A TEENAGE badminton enthusiast has been shortlisted for a Sunderland Young Achievers’ Award after representing Britain in the Special Olympics.
Laura Ferguson, 16, from Tunstall, Sunderland, has a rare condition called 22q11.2 deletion, also known as DiGeorge syndrome, where different genes are lost, which can result in heath problems.
She travelled to Poland last year to compete in the Special Olympics European Games. She has now been nominated for a Young Achievers’ Award by Kath Rooney of Special Olympics Sunderland.
Kath said: “I feel this is an exceptional achievement for a young lady with a learning disability and to see her achievement acknowledged would put a perfect end to a very hard-working year for Laura.”
22q11.2 deletion is the genetic address of the missing genes or chromosones which can cause heart defects, feeding difficulties, immune system deficits, palate differences, and growth delay.
Laura, who trains at Raich Carter Sports Centre, in Hendon, and St Aidan’s Badminton Club, in Sunderland, started playing badminton in 2008 and went to the National Games in 2009 to represent the north of England.
Kath added: “We were disappointed that Laura was knocked out in earlier rounds as she had worked so hard. We really thought she deserved to do well.
“But it showed just what Laura was made of. She came home and stepped up her training from twice weekly to three or four times a week and worked so hard, always with a smile on her face.”
Laura’s determination to succeed in her sport has given her an enormous boost in confidence and helped her to come out of her shell.
She said: “I feel very proud that I’ve been chosen for the award. I’ve worked really hard.
“Going to Poland was a bit scary, but once I got there and saw all the other teams I got really excited.
“Badminton is my favourite sport. I like winning competitions and getting to make friends.”
Her dad Stephen says he is enormously proud of Laura.
He said: “It’s not so much the award, it’s more about how she enjoys the sport. She only started about two years ago from not even playing at all. Her confidence has come on great. We’re all very proud.”
The Young Achievers’ Awards, which were launched in 1992, highlight and celebrate the achievements of young people in Sunderland.
Organised by Sunderland City Council, Youth Development Group, the awards pay tribute to young people who make a significant contribution to family, school and community life.
Winners will be recognised at a ceremony at the Stadium of Light on March 10.
The awards are sponsored by Nike UK/Ireland, Nissan, SAFC Foundation, The R&B Group, Sunderland Echo, Metro Radio, Arts Centre Washington, Sunderland Youth Parliament, the National Glass Centre, Gentoo Sunderland, Northumbrian Water, Sunderland City Governors Association and vinvolved (Springboard).