Sports plea

Hazel Johnson, who had to raise �2,000 to compete in the Special Olympics in Athens
Hazel Johnson, who had to raise �2,000 to compete in the Special Olympics in Athens

ONE of Wigan’s top disabled sports stars has backed calls for more financial support for amateur athletes in the borough.

Hazel Johnson, from Bryn, was forced to raise £2,000 of her own cash to compete in this year’s Special Olympics in Athens, Greece, where she won two gold medals and a silver in badminton.

Bryn councillor and leader of the opposition Gary Wilkes has called on the council to change its rules around how Brighter Borough cash can be used in order to allow councillors to offer greater financial backing to promising amateur sportsmen and women.

Currently, Brighter Borough money can not be used to fund individuals who are competing in amateur sports competitions overseas.

Coun Wilkes said: “The amateur side of sport in the borough often gets forgotten about. As a council we do not do enough at times.

“We should be doing more to recognise and encourage our local amateur athletes, especially those who take part in elite competitions.

“Why shouldn’t we be able to use Brighter Borough money in this way? Hazel had to raise £2,000 of her own money to travel to the Special Olympics.”

Hazel did Wigan proud at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens.

The badminton star won two gold medals and a silver after getting the better of some very stiff competition from all over the world.

She won the gold medal in the singles event after winning all of her group matches and grabbed the top prize in the doubles after teaming up superbly with Briony Johnson from Oswestry.

Her silver medal came in the mixed doubles competition as she paired up with Grant Hunter from Glasgow to success.

But Hazel, 31, faced an uphill battle to compete in the games after she was forced to raise thousands of pounds to take part.

She said: “I had support from my family and the Lads and Girls’ Badminton Club in Bolton, but I had to raise £2,000 in total just to be able to compete.

“I saved tips from work, did bag-packing in shops and washed cars. We also staged a sportsman’s dinner and auctioned off football memorabilia.

“A lot don’t know what people with disabilities can do. They can go out and have a life just as anyone else can, which is why taking part in competitions is so important.”

What do you think? Should we spend Brighter Borough money on providing financial support for athletes? Add your comments below ...