PARALYMPIC hopeful Tully Kearney has spoken of her delight at being in the final three for this year’s BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year Awards, after an incredible season.

Tully, who was born with cerebral palsy and has a progressive neurological condition, is a British para-swimmer and Paralympic hopeful who was incredibly successful in this summer’s IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, taking home six medals including four goals.

The 18-year-old Manchester Metropolitan University Sport scholar, who is studying for a BSc (Hons) physiology degree said: “It’s amazing. There are so many talented young athletes in this country who have had outstanding performances over the last year so it’s such an honour for me to be in the top three.

“It would be great to play my part in raising the profile of para sport, which is something I’m really passionate about.

“London 2012 massively improved the profile in terms of coverage, and the work that the BBC and Channel 4 did really pushed the sports forward.

“There is still work to do but the fact both are dedicated to the Paralympic movement is great.”

Her gold in the S9 400m freestyle saw Tully set a new European record with a time of 4:39:29, more than ten seconds faster than the silver medallist. She also set a European record in the 100m butterfly and the 200m individual medley.

“Honestly it was amazing, I couldn’t quite believe it. I was most proud of the Butterfly record because of how much I’d improved in that event over the previous six months.

“I really had to fight to touch first and get that record. The final between all of us girls was really close.”

Tully Kearney twoTully began swimming at the age of nine as a form of physiotherapy to help with her disability and was inspired to start training after watching her brother Luke whom she describes as a “naturally good swimmer.”

She added that Michael Phelps and Ellie Simmonds have both been “inspirational athletes” through her journey to success.

In 2011, Tully entered the 25th German Open Meet in Berlin: her first competition internationally. The event saw her take home two medals in the open age group, in addition to the seven she collected in her age category.

After being selected as a World Class Development Funded Athlete for the 2011/12 season, Tully went on to compete at the 2013 British International Disability Swim Championships, breaking the British record for the 100m backstroke.

It was this incredible performance that earned her a place on the British team for the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal, where she won bronze in the women’s 400m freestyle.

The MMU student missed out on the 2014 Commonwealth Games due to illness, however she has since come back fighting, picking up the Junior Sportsperson of the Year at the Birmingham Sports Awards last year.

Tully, who trains at the National Performance Centre for British Para Swimming at the Manchester Aquatics Centre has sights set on being selected to represent Team GB at next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio, alongside studying for her degree.

“I am working really hard to make sure I am in the best place to qualify,” she said.

The trials which are being held at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre, are likely to bring back great memories for Tully.

“I won gold at the World Championships there, so it really holds great memories for me.

“Being in Manchester has really helped, with regards to training, everything I need is on one site.”

Tully makes the balance between her career and her education look easy, however she admits it can be difficult at times.

“It can be hard, but with good planning it’s all possible. It’s taken me a while to get used to having to ask for help with juggling deadlines and conflicting demands on my time, but I now know that everything can be sorted out if you ask for help when you need it.

“My advice to anyone trying to juggle multiple things is to just have a good plan for every week and make sure you stick to it. Also make sure you put everything in your diary so that you don’t miss anything.”

After such an impressive season, Tully believes winning the SPOTY award this weekend would be the “perfect Christmas present.”

“My highlight of 2015 was being on the podium and hearing myself described as ‘World Champion’ and then the National Anthem playing is something I’ll never forget.

“My aim for 2016 is to qualify for the GBR team and produce my best performances ever. But winning this award really would be the best Christmas present ever.”

By: Emma Pearce

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