HEROIC Heather Richardson refused to let a spate of serious injuries get in the way of her swimming ambitions.
The determined teenager from Seaton Lane, Hartlepool, fought back from three devastating setbacks to win medals at international swimming championships.
Now her proud family are hoping she will add another honour to the total after nominating her for the Pride of Hartlepool awards.
Grandmum Christine Franklin said: “She is very determined and always smiles.”
Heather’s story is a remarkable tale of courage in the face of adversity.
Christine explained: “In 2011, she slipped over at a gala in Sunderland and broke her left wrist.
“She was devastated, but despite her broken wrist she still trained every session with waterproof covers which were held on with tape.
“It was quite painful, but Heather was determined not to miss any training.”
The brave youngster then sat her GCSEs a week later and “did very well,” said grandmum.
And not long after that, she qualified for the Scottish national swimming championships, just 10 days after having her cast removed.
Success continued when she won five medals at meeting in Malta, swimming for the Catholic Schools of Great Britain.
Then, heartbreak happened for a second time. Another slip at a swimming gala in Whitley Bay meant she needed another pot on her left wrist,
Christine said: “She still managed to do some training for three hours a week.”
But ill fate was to affect Heather again. The 17-year-old was left needing a pin and four screws inserted into her thigh bone which was snapped in a road smash in January, last year.
Christine said: “We all thought that her swimming career was over but only six weeks after her operation Heather was back in the water even though she still walked with crutches and in a lot of pain.”
Heather’s injuries meant she had to sit a physics exam while she was in hospital, and two maths exams at home.
“It was very difficult, but she didn’t want to miss them and she passed them all with flying colours.”
There was more good news to follow. Heather was chosen to swim in Portugal to represent the Catholic Schools of Great Britain.
She won one individual and four team medals and mum Michelle, 44, a mobile hairdresser, said: “She is amazing. For someone that young to go through all that and come out the other side, is incredible.”
Nominations are flooding in for this year’s awards.
This year there are 10 categories in which you can nominate the unsung heroes in the town.
Whether you know a fantastic fundraiser or a community stalwart, we want to hear all about those who deserve praise and have done something special.
Simply fill in the form on this page and send it to us or you can enter online or on tablet by following the links.
Details of how to get them to us are on the nomination form. The deadline for entries is February 27.
Anyone wanting further information about the Pride of Hartlepool Awards should contact the Mail’s deputy editor, Gavin Foster, on (01429) 239372 or email: email@example.com