Scottish teenage para athlete Kayleigh Haggo is going all out to put RaceRunning in the world spotlight when she competes in the sport in the WPA European Championships this week.
The Ayrshire teenager is among the sporting stars blazing a trail in RaceRunning which has been introduced to the championships in Berlin for the first time.
Selected for the 50-plus squad representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Kayleigh flew out to Germany at the weekend and is setting her sights on securing a medal and personal best on Thursday – at the same time helping raise the profile of this fast-growing sport.
And for Aberdeen Standard Investments-sponsored Kayleigh, the ultimate goal would be to compete in the discipline in the Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024.
Kayleigh said: “I started RaceRunning at the age of 12 then had four years out to focus on swimming, but it’s great being back. It’s fast, it’s challenging, and I love the sense of freedom and independence that RaceRunning gives. I’m proud to have the opportunity to represent my country in this sport, it really is a dream come true, and I will be giving my all in Berlin as I want to reach the finals and win a medal.
“To have RaceRunning at the European Championships is a big plus for para athletics and this will give the sport wider recognition. The take-up is increasing across the world and, while it won’t be part of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, hopes are high that it could feature as a competitive sport in the France 2024 Paralympic Games. That would be incredible.”
Kayleigh (19) from Maybole in Ayrshire has a form of cerebral palsy which affects her balance and motor skills. She has risen to glory as a para athlete and has won three golds in the European Paralympic Youth Games, set thirteen world records and four national age group records in swimming, race running and club throw sports.
She’s still swim training, but has placed her competition focus RaceRunning, using a racing trike which will be undergoing modifications after Berlin, which means that the championships mark the end of her competitive season for the year. That doesn’t mean that her strict training regime ends though, and the coming months will focus on conditioning and endurance work to start building for next season with eyes on the world championships in Dubai in 2019 and the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
This comes over and above her job as a swimming teacher in Girvan and a sports coaching and development student at the University of West Scotland. Kayleigh’s also a sports coach and motivational speaker, volunteering with the Scottish Disability Sport.
Her remarkable achievements have been recognised with several awards including The Herald and GenAnalytics Rising Star Diversity Award 2017; Ayrshire Sportsability Young Athlete of the Year 2012, 2015, 2016; Ayr Rotary Club’s Young Citizen of the Year 2016; West FM’s The Up and Coming Youngster 2016; Talented Sports Performer Award, Glasgow Life; and Sports for Special Needs Athlete of the Year 2011. She was a finalist for Young Scot Unsung Hero Award and a finalist for the College Candidate of the Year at the SQA Star Awards 2017.
Race running has strong roots in Kayleigh’s country of birth, and is suited for people with cerebral palsy, arthritis, and similar disabilities and gives disabled people who otherwise can only get around in an electric wheelchair, a manual wheelchair or in a walker the ability to move by themselves, using custom-built tricycles without pedals.
It’s one of the fastest growing sports for people with co-ordination impairment disorders and having been accepted by the World Para Athletics as one of its official sports disciplines, it raises hopes that it could be in with a chance of being part of Paris 2024.
The support from Aberdeen Standard Investments will help the sporting star continue to be able to strive towards her sporting ambitions. It has funded the purchase of a new Triride wheelchair which, with electronic power, will greatly enhance her mobility and independence in day-to-day life.
Jill Maxwell, Head of Sponsorship at Aberdeen Standard Investments, commented: “We have a long association of working with high profile sporting events, clubs and individuals, and we’re delighted to be supporting such a bright young talent like Kayleigh who lets nothing come in her way of going out to achieve sporting success.
“She’s a great role model and an inspiration for others and we’re pleased to be supporting her in her ambitions for the future by helping to fund this Triride.
“We look forward to seeing Kayleigh making her mark in RaceRunning and in turn raising the profile of this sport – and hopefully achieving her dream of being able to compete in the discipline in future Paralympics.”
With a track record of committing to sport at all levels, Aberdeen Standard Investments is associated with some of the nation’s top talent like tennis ace Gordon Reid, and leading events like the Scottish Open, the Ladies Scottish Open, the Melrose Sevens and the Aberdeen Universities’ Boat Race.