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Balsall Common girl with genetic condition competes in Olympic Games

A Balsall Common teenager who has a rare genetic condition has overcome hurdles to compete in the Special Olympics National Summer Games

Shona O'keeffe with sister Cara
Shona O'keeffe with sister Cara

A Balsall Common teenager who has a rare genetic condition has overcome hurdles to compete in the Special Olympics National Summer Games.

Shona O’Keeffe, aged 13, has walked away with four medals, including one gold and two silver, after impressing judges with her artistic gymnastic skills.

The youngster, who recently took part in the games at Bath University, was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome when she was just three-months-old and family were told a few years later she also has autism.

The condition can affect growth and the heart. It also means Shona has no spatial awareness, which makes her flair for gymnastics even more remarkable.

Proud mum Jackie said: “With the problems that Shona has, she has done amazingly well.

“Shona has no concept of how close things are to her, for example if she was crossing a road, she wouldn’t be aware of how close a car is from her. So to balance on beams in gymnastics and to be able to maintain that level of concentration is a real achievement for her.”

The schoolgirl is a member of Coventry Gymnastics Club and Coventry Special Olympics Club and took up the sport to help her cope with the condition.

“It really helps and it’s great way for Shona to be able to mix with other children, many of whom are in the same boat. She can just be herself.

“Competitions like the Special Olympics National Summer Games are a great way for children with special needs being allowed to achieve their dreams.”

Shona has competed in several gymnastics competitions, travelling to venues in Leicester, Poole, Cardiff and Jersey to perform the beam, bars, vault and floor routines and has picked up several medals along the way.

“There aren’t enough words to describe how proud we are of Shona. Against all the odds, with hard work and determination and with the help and support of her coach in Coventry she has achieved so much and I hope her story will inspire others,” Jackie added.

 

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