A teenager with multiple sclerosis will be the only athlete from London to compete in the inaugural World Para Athletics Junior Championships this week.
Amar Aichoun, from Neasden, was diagnosed with MS at the age of 13 but after receiving dedicated coaching support from the Willesden-based Track Academy, the 19-year-old has been picked to race against the world’s best in Switzerland.
After completing a 100m qualifier in 11.7 seconds, Amar will run in the 100m and 200m in the T38 category, taking his place on the British team alongside 13 other hopefuls in the Championships, which start on Thursday.
The junior games come hot on the heels of the senior World Para Athletics Championships in London last month.
Amar’s selection is the culmination of years of hard work since his unexpected diagnosis.
The youngster, who lives with his family on the St Raphael’s Estate where Manchester City and England footballer Raheem Sterling spent part of his childhood, said: “Over a couple of days, my eyesight began to get progressively worse and my speech started to slur.
“I went between Northwick Park and Great Ormond Street hospitals for lots of tests and they diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis.
“There was a point when they thought I might not be able to walk or talk again, but I fought through it.
“I’ve never let MS stop me doing anything – there are still things I want to achieve and my ambitions are the same as they were before.
“I was one of the fastest kids in my school. My teachers at Queen’s Park could see I had a talent for running and advised me to join a club.
“I did some research and went to Willesden Sports Centre, where I happened to meet Shereen Rose who is a coach with Track Academy.
“Track Academy has helped build my character. They steer you away from being in gangs and help you find the talent you didn’t know you had.”
Amar is now a member of Track Academy’s elite competitive training group and has also attended the Donnington Road-based charity’s Saturday sessions in English over the years, putting in extra effort after not securing the required C grade at GCSE level.
He has since completed his first year of a degree in Sport, Health and Exercise Science at the Uxbridge-based Brunel University and now helps out with younger athletes at Track Academy in his spare time.
“I like to help the coaches and give something back, because Track Academy has given me the motivation to be the person I am today,” he said.
“It’s still my aim to become an international athlete – I hope I can even be in the Olympics despite my MS.”
In March this year – just three months after a hernia operation – Amar won silver in the 100m in the IPC Grand Prix in Dubai, a perfect warm-up for the big event this week.
“Being chosen to represent Team GB for the World Para Athletics Junior Championships is such a privilege and a real achievement,” he said.
“I am over the moon – who wouldn’t want to compete in a GB vest? I’m overjoyed with the news and will embrace every minute.”
icon-circle Alongside coaching, Track Academy athletes attend education sessions to help them gain qualifications, encouraging them to carve out fulfilling lives away from negative influences. The academy is holding a special invitational event on August 15 – to find out more, visit www.trackacademy.co.uk or call 07956 715052. You can also follow Amar on Twitter: @MoreSuccess24