A Knaresborough teenager is taking a three week break from his new job after being selected to represent Team GB in this year’s Special Olympics World Games.
Nineteen-year-old James Parker – who has just started a business administration apprenticeship with Disability Action Yorkshire, in Harrogate – is flying to Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 21, as a member of the seven-a-side Unified Football squad.
He is one of more than 7,000 athletes from 170 countries who will be competing in 28 different sports over games’ nine days.
The event kicks off on Saturday, July 25 with an opening ceremony in Los Angeles’ Memorial Coliseum, and will feature an exclusive line-up of special guests, including Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Nicole Scherzinger, Stevie Wonder and Avril Lavigne.
James, who has already participated in two previous Special Olympics World Games, trains twice a week with Harrogate Gateway FC, which is based at St Aidan’s High School.
And, thanks to the help of his father and his coach, he has achieved an FA Level 1 Coaching Certificate.
James said: “Having the opportunity to take part in this tournament is absolutely amazing and shows what people like me can achieve.
“The Special Olympics gives me a fantastic opportunity to take part in the sport I love and being a part of Team GB has widened my network of friends.
“It has given me the chance to play against different opposition and I have met other athletes in different sports.”
Disability Action Yorkshire Chief Executive Jackie Snape said: “We are absolutely delighted that James has been selected to represent Team GB in these very important games.
“Even though he has only been with us for a month, he has made a very big impression with everyone here.
“Needless to say, we are all rooting for James, and will be keenly following his team’s progress over the coming weeks.
“We have our fingers crossed that he and his team mates can go all the way and become gold medallists.”
Mrs Snape added: “James is proof that a disability does not, and should not, get in the way of competing at a high level. He and his fellow Team GB colleagues are an inspiration to us all.”