Gymnast Lauren defies odds to win place at Special Olympics

Gymnast Lauren Douce with her collection of medals,
Gymnast Lauren Douce with her collection of medals,

A young gymnast from Gainsborough who has learning disabilities has defied the odds to win a place in the England team at the Special Olympics World Games.

Thirteen-year-old Lauren Douce has balance problems and suffers from dyspraxia, which is a co-ordination disorder that affects her development and movement. She is also said to have a short-term memory that is “pretty non-existent”.

Such disabilities are hardly ideal for a successful gymnast. But Lauren has somehow overcome her hurdles to develop into one of the sport’s brightest prospects in the country.

She has won a string of gold medals at UK competitions, and now she is off to Abu Dhabi next year for the 15th Special Olympics World Games, a global event for the cream of athletes with learning disabilities.

Coached by Stacie Ridley, who is herself a former national disability gymnastics champion, an excited Lauren says she “can’t wait to be part of Team GB”. She is currently training hard in preparation.

She is one of 129 athletes to have been selected by Team Special Olympics GB to participate in 17 different sports at the Games, which will take place between March 14 and 21 next spring.

A total of 7,000 athletes with learning disabilities, including autism and Down’s Syndrome, will fly the flag for 168 countries in Abu Dhabi for what is sure to be a spectacular sporting occasion.

Lauren is one of a 12-strong squad for the gymnastics (artistic), and they will be hoping to bring home plenty of medals.

Her remarkable progress in the sport has won the admiration of many experts and supporters. When a short BBC Radio Lincolnshire video on Lauren was posted on Special Olympics Great Britain’s Facebook page, it was greeted by lots of comments of encouragement and well wishes.

Ann Rushman said: “Good luck! You will be amazing!” Chloe Warren said: “I see a very talented woman. Good Luck!” And Julie Barlow added: “Wow, wow wow! Good luck!”