Our Jess is picked for Rio 2016

Jessica Stretton at the Dacorum Sports Awards in May, where she scooped the Rising Star award. She is pictured with Dacorum mayor Robert Mclean, left, and Hemel MP Mike Penning

Jessica Stretton at the Dacorum Sports Awards in May, where she scooped the Rising Star award. She is pictured with Dacorum mayor Robert Mclean, left, and Hemel MP Mike Penning

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One of the country’s finest young archers has been selected to represent Team GB at the Rio 2016 Paralympics later this year.

Jessica Stretton, 16, from Hemel Hempstead, will live her dream by competing against other nations in the prestigious sporting event hosted in Rio de Janeiro from September 7.

Jess, who has cerebral palsy, said: “I am very proud to have been selected to represent Great Britain at the Paralympics in Rio.

“It all feels a bit surreal. On Friday I was sat in an exam hall taking a GCSE science exam in biology and on the Saturday I was in Czech Republic competing at a world ranking competition.

“Then I came back with a gold medal to find out I had been selected for Paralympics GB on the Monday.”

The youngster, who has just celebrated her Year 11 prom after sitting her GCSE exams at Longdean School in Bennetts End, has been juggling revision with training and competitions abroad.

Graham Cunningham, headteacher at the school on Rumballs Road, said: “We are delighted for Jess. This achievement is testament to the hard work she has put in.

“It was one of our PE staff who encouraged Jess to try Paralympic sport like Boccia, and she’s done all of this while studying her GCSEs.”

The teenager, who is due to start sixth form at Longdean in the autumn, will join team members John Cavanagh, Jo Frith, Jodie Grinham, Mikey Hall, Nathan Macqueen, Tania Nadarajah, David Phillips, John Stubbs and John Walker.

Ever since Jess first took up the sport after taking part in a have-a-go session when she was 12, she has gone from strength to strength.

She scooped a gold medal for Great Britain at the International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports Junior Games in 2014, as well as being part of the GB team who won bronze before winning another gold at the Dutch Para world-ranking event in Almere in May 2015

Maybe there is ‘something in the water’ at Longdean School, as gold-medallist gymnast Max Whitlock and Liverpool footballer Sheyi Ojo are both former students.

Headteacher Mr Cunningham said: “As a school we will always seek to support 
and develop the kids’ unique talent and we have left no stone unturned in helping her prepare for her exams and the opportunity in Rio.”