Battling Leeds teenager looking to Paralympics for glory

Danielle Bailey. PIC: Ross Parry
Danielle Bailey. PIC: Ross Parry
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A 13-year-old girl could be on the road to the Paralympics next summer after becoming a gold-medal winning swimmer – despite losing her hands and legs to meningitis.

Danielle Bailey was just four years old when a vicious bout of the illness left her fighting for her life.

Now, under the close eye of instructor Chris Silverwood, she has mastered all four main strokes and the teenager, from Otley, has slashed her times by up to half-a-minute in under six months.

Danielle is categorised as an S4 swimmer – disability classifications range from S1 to S15 with S1 being the most serious disabilities – and has already won a gold medal less than nine months after starting swimming when she won the Disability Sports Events National Junior Swimming Championship in February.

If she repeats the performance at the ASA Youth National Swimming Championships in Sheffield next week she will be accepted on to the World Class Talent programme and be on the road to the 2012 Paralympics.

She said: "I was nervous at the start but when I get in and start to swim I feel free. It's the best sport for me to do and makes me feel capable and independent.

"I've won lots of medals and I really, really enjoy it. My favourite stroke is the front crawl. It would make me really proud to one day be in the Paralympics."

Danielle lives with her mum, Lindsay, and dad, Trevor, 40, who is her full-time carer. They have four other daughters - Tia, ten, Jamie-Lee, eight, Mya, seven, and three-year-old Summer.

Coach Chris said: "A year ago she was a novice swimmer and now she is a national youth level athlete. Her progress has been fantastic.”

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