JUNIOR SPORT: 'Vision impaired' Rachel breaks down barriers

JUNIOR SPORT

Young athletes routinely speak about making sacrifices and overcoming tough times, but Rachel Shipp has a story to both inspire and put hardship into perspective.

Imagine your passion is athletics and fitness but you are unable to walk alone in the backyard, or run in clear open spaces, for fear of injury. Simply walking into obstacles has left you with several broken teeth.

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Twelve-year-old Rachel is blind with Red Cone Dystrophy, but prefers the term 'vision impaired'. She has embarked on a remarkable running program to become the best athlete she can be.

With the enormous support of Kembla Joggers Athletics Club (KJs) - and in particular Jody Hennessy as her running guide - Rachel has broken down barriers and leapt over obstacles most able-bodies athletes would struggle to overcome.

Rachel, with her guide Jody, has competed in School, District and State level competition, winning her first athletics state gold medal in 2011.

A regular at KJs club meets on a Thursday night, Rachel earned what she regards as her greatest honour by claiming one of the club's Top Trier Award in 2012.

"She was so surprised to win it and against so many really great runners, she found it hard to believe that she could win such an award when she was vision-impaired," Rachel's proud dad Greg said.

"It was a tremendous boost to her confidence and self-esteem."

Last year, Rachel broke down disability barriers by becoming the first T11 athlete to compete in a junior state cross country meet in Australia.

At the NSW PSSA Championships, she won gold in the 200 metres, silver in the 800 metres and was fourth in the 100 metres, despite having missed weeks of training after a seizure while walking home.

Having overcome so many obstacles and still only 12 years old, Rachel is an inspiration to all athletes and proof it's your ability not disability that counts.

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