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Whitley Bay student to represent Great Britain at Special Olympics

Daniel Henaghan and lecturer Lynsey Moy.
Daniel Henaghan and lecturer Lynsey Moy.

A student is getting to grips with his biggest sporting challenge as he prepares to represent Great Britain.

Daniel Henaghan has been selected for Great Britain’s judo squad in the Special Olympics 2019 World Summer Games.

The 16-year-old, from Whitley Bay, is one of just six people chosen to represent the combined home nations team in the martial art at the world’s largest humanitarian and sporting event.

And incredibly, his sister Denise, 15, has also been selected for the same team, which will compete in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in March.

Both only took up the sport five years ago but have already competed for England and Great Britain at tournaments in the UK.

Daniel, who studies engineering at Tyne Metropolitan College, was chosen despite breaking his arm in the qualifying competition in Sheffield last year.

The injury left him requiring surgery and kept him out of action for six weeks.

Selectors took into consideration his outstanding record of mainly silver and gold medal successes in tournaments since he first represented England aged just 12.

Daniel, who has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), puts his success down to natural talent and a dedication to practise but along with Denise is looking for sponsors to help to cover their £2,500 individual costs.

Daniel said: “I do think I have a good chance of winning gold – you have to go there with the intention of winning and you have to want to win more than the other competitors.

“The first few moments of any competition are the most crucial, that’s when you have to get the best possible grip. The person who gets the best grip will usually win.

“I practise once a week with my club and five times a week at home.

“My family put on their judo suits and we practise the moves and the grips.

“I also run, swim and do weights to get in the best possible shape.”

He added: “I enjoy competing and I’m really looking forward to taking part in the World Summer Games, which will be the first time I’ve competed abroad.

“It will cost £2,500 for me to take part and the same for my sister, some of which will possibly be covered by funding and my mum has been putting money away.

“I’m hoping a sponsor or two will come forward to help us further.”

Daniel was first selected for England in the 12 to 14-year-old age group and is now in the 16 to 30 age group.

When not competing for England or Great Britain, he represents Northern Region Club, based at Southlands School, North Shields.

He joined TyneMet on a one-year level 2 mechanical engineering programme last September and plans to continue his studies with a level 3 or an apprenticeship.

Lynsey Moy, pastoral tutor for engineering and IT at TyneMet, said: “It is testament to his talent that Daniel has been selected to represent Great Britain at the very prestigious World Summer Games.

“He is dedicated to judo and very much enjoys competing at it – he is confident of success at the games and I’m sure he will do well.”

Anyone who would like to sponsor Daniel or Denise can do so by emailing their dad Jeff Henaghan at jeffhenaghan@yahoo.co.uk

Founded in 1968, the Special Olympics, which is official recognised by the International Olympics Committee, is a global movement of people creating inclusion and community, where everyone is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability.

The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games is a multi-sport event for athletes with intellectual disabilities and features seven days of competition in 24 sports.

These including badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, table tennis, tennis, athletics, cycling, kayaking, sailing, swimming, triathlon, equestrian, judo, artistic gymnasts and rhythmic gymnastics, bowling, football, golf and powerlifting.

An estimated 7,000 Special Olympics athletes will take part, with around 500,000 spectators expected to attend.