Lydia aims to be top blade runner at Rio Paralympics
A schoolgirl is tipped to become a Paralympian of the future by the former coach of Team GB blade-sprinting hero Jonny Peacock.
Lydia Cross, 11, from Braunton, could make it to the Rio Games in 2016, according to GB coach Hayley Ginn, 27.
Lydia lost her legs after contracting meningitis as a toddler, just like Jonny, who won a gold medal in the men's T44 100m in the Paralympics.
Hayley coached Jonny until last year, when he entered a new training programme in the run-up to the Games. She has since started coaching Lydia on her running blades and has told her parents the schoolgirl has potential.
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Lydia, who was at Kingsacre Primary School, started at the Braunton Academy last week. Her mother, Jodie, said: "Lydia couldn't have started at her new school at a better time really – with the Paralympics on it's meant children have seen blade runners on the TV.
"She said one boy was staring so much at her legs she had to say 'my eyes are up here'. But one lad came over and asked if she was going to go to the Paralympics, and she said 'yes'.
"I told her she should say 'I hope so', not 'yes', because you never know what's going to happen, but Hayley certainly thinks she could make it."
Lydia said: "I've been doing blade running for quite a while now, watching people like Jonny Peacock and Oscar Pistorius and how fast they run and I want to be like them."
Lydia said she was aware she would have to do lots of hard training to get to the top of her sport.
"I want to do really well, I want to get gold in the 100m," she said. "I am more focused on blade running after the Paralympics – you get to go so fast on them."
During her visit to the Olympic Park, Lydia got to see South African Oscar Pistorius run.
Jodie said Lydia would have to dedicate herself to training if she wants to get to Rio.
"Lydia is only 11 and Jonny was 15 when he started, so he's done it in four years, but it's a lot of commitment," said her mother, 42. "Lydia is running 100m in 17.4 seconds and to compete with the women at the Paralympics she needs to be doing it in 13.4 seconds. Hayley says she will get there, but Lydia wants to be a bit like Jessica Ennis and do lots of events. She wants to race wheelchairs as well."