A PARA athlete is speeding ahead with her athletics after being selected to compete in the junior world championships despite concentrating on her school studies.
Barnard Castle School girl India Oates has just completed her GCSEs and will now compete in the World Para Junior Championships, due to be staged in Switzerland, from August 1-4.
Ranked second in the country and seventh in the world for the 100m and 200m T35 events, India, of Barnard Castle, will compete against the very best international athletes at the event in Nottwil.
Born in Newcastle’s RVI Hospital nine weeks early with her twin Amelia, India was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and now competes in T35 competitions, which are for athletes who are affected in all four limbs.
Her disability has never prevented her performing and with personal bests of 16.14 seconds and 33.63 for the 100m and 200m, respectively, she has always been one of the fastest para-athletes in the world.
“It all started in Prep School when my teacher Sue Seddon saw me perform well on sports day,” the 16-year-old said. “In Reception and Year 1 I wouldn’t even get off the bench but by Year 3 my friends were amazed how quick I was.
“By Year 8 I was a member of Darlington Harriers and the following year I started taking it seriously.
She was encouraged by her training partner Kieran Maxwell, the promising Heighington athlete, who died in June 2017 at the age of 18 after a seven-year fight with the rare illness Ewing’s Sarcoma.
India also went on an introduction to para-athletics event at Durham University and took part in national competitions in Nottingham, where she came into contact with Shelly Holroyd, the co-ordinator for Parallel Success, now the Paralympic Pathway Development Group.
Last December she was selected for the Paralympic Futures Academy and is now in the squad for the World Para Junior Championships.
Coached by Darlington Harriers’ Helen Bowles, who attends the Futures Academy weekends and competitions with India, she is also trained in strength, conditioning and recovery by Barnard Castle School coach Andy Woodward.
“I feel really good about this as I have been concentrating on my GCSEs and have not been doing as much training,” she said. “So to be selected really is the icing on the cake. I’m training every day on the track and in the gym at school.
“I do not know what I would do without school as the facilities and support are brilliant. The dream is to compete at the Paralympics, either in 2020 in Tokyo or 2024 in Paris.”
India plans to stay on at Barnard Castle School Sixth Form to study A levels in religious studies, PE and psychology. She then hopes to read a degree at Loughborough University, which is also home to the country’s Sports High Performance Centre.
Head of Performance Sport, Strength and Conditioning at Barnard Castle School, Mr Woodward said: “India is a pleasure to work with, blessed with a natural talent and has a great work ethic. We are all thrilled that she has been selected to represent her country and she remains an amazing role model at school.”