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December 29, 2004

Swimming to success

From: BBC Sport - London,England,UK - Dec 29, 2004

By Kaye Holland

Having the chance to represent her country in the Deaflympics was something that had never crossed the mind of keen swimmer Lauren Newton.

But having been diagnosed as deaf earlier this year, the 16-year-old schoolgirl set off for Melbourne on Boxing Day ready to challenge for gold at the Games.

It is an exciting time for the teenager at the end of what has been a traumatic year for her.

Lauren's mother, Sandra Newton, told BBC Sport: "Until March this year, we had no idea as to Lauren's hearing loss.

"It came as a great shock to me and her father, as well as to Lauren herself.

"She had a bad ear infection at the start of the year and everything happened from that.

"The doctors told me that she had been slowly losing her hearing over a period of time and that she had just adapted to change and learnt to lip read, without realising what she was doing," she said.

Such devastating news would be enough to sink most adults, let alone teenagers, but Lauren has taken her hearing loss very much in her stride.

Thanks to a supportive school, her academic work has never suffered and she harbours high hopes of achieving top grades in her GCSEs next year.

First up though, the swimming prodigy has her sights set on a medal in Melbourne, where she will compete in a number of events, including her favoured 50m and 100m breaststroke.

A couple of months ago, UK Deaf Sport judged that Lauren fulfilled their hearing loss criteria.

Their swimming team was an athlete short and having met their qualifying times, director Vincent Dickson had little hesitation in signing Lauren up on the spot.

Dickson has been pleased with Newton's progress as she prepares to make her international debut.

"Lauren certainly has good prospects in breaststroke. I wouldn't want to predict anything but I am hopeful," he said.

Lauren is not the only Newton with an interest in swimming - younger sister, Lois, 11, is being tracked by a talent identification programme.

The siblings, who are both members of Preston Swimming Club, were taught from an early age by their swimming enthusiast mother.

However, the water-loving family will not be accompanying Lauren on her Melbourne mission.

Despite the support of Deafway and the Lancashire Playing Fields - who awarded Lauren a Young Person's Sports Award to help towards her funding - the financial cost involved is too great.

The Brit hopeful turned sweet 16 on Boxing Day. If all goes to plan in Melbourne, her birthday will not be the only event that Lauren will be celebrating in the near future.

Story from BBC SPORT:

Published: 2004/12/29 16:20:26 GMT