Bourne really has had something to celebrate recently, with the marvellous achievements of our own Jade Etherington – star of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Winning three silver medals and a bronze, Jade has become the most successful female British Winter Paralympian of all time. At the age of 23, Jade has shown that hard work and dedication can help overcome many obstacles. I’ve no doubt that she will inspire other young people to achieve their sporting goals. I’m delighted that Jade was chosen as the first person to be awarded the freedom of Bourne recently. Her success has been celebrated elsewhere in the county too. On Friday, April 4, Lincolnshire’s newest celebrity thrilled crowds as she toured Lincoln in an open top bus specially organised by Lincolnshire Sport. As a member of the Lincolnshire Elite Athlete Programme (LEAP), managed by Lincolnshire Sport and primarily funded by Lincolnshire County Council, Jade had funding, training and mentoring ahead of the Sochi Games. The LEAP programme supports around 30 talented athletes each year from across Lincolnshire in various sports including golf, swimming and athletics. We are committed to investing in Lincolnshire’s young talent and will continue to fund this programme. Hopefully Jade’s success will encourage other young people to pursue their sporting dreams. As you may know, Jade was born with glaucoma and a genetic eye condition called Axenfeld Syndrome, which got dramatically worse when she was 17. During her school days in Bourne and in the Deepings, Jade was supported by specialist teachers from Lincolnshire County Council’s Sensory Education and Support Service (SESS). She had further teaching assistant support when her vision deteriorated in secondary school. This expert help meant that Jade was able to take part in ordinary school life and thrive alongside her fellow students. Last year the county council increased the budget for SESS by 30 per cent, as we are determined that all children in Lincolnshire – whether hearing or visually impaired – should be given the support they need to fulfil their potential. Not only has Jade excelled as a sportswoman but she has also been training to be a teacher. We could be celebrating more of Jade’s achievements in the future, but whatever she does next, we can be proud that she has put Bourne and Lincolnshire on the map in such a fantastic way. With the right support, I hope we can look forward to more young stars breaking into the world of sport in the future!