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Shetland’s swimming hero denied Rio 2016 chance as bosses rule she is not disabled enough to compete

Swimmer Erraid Davies
Swimmer Erraid Davies

Swimming sensation Erraid Davies is facing having her Paralympics dream dashed – because officials have decided she is no longer disabled enough to compete.

The Shetland teenager became the sporting darling of Scotland when she won bronze at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

She was the youngest competitor at the event and captured the heart of the nation with her amazing performances in the pool.

But Erraid – who could barely walk when she was aged four – now seems almost certain to be left off the plane to Rio.

But on the eve of crucial time trials in the race to qualify for the Paralympics she has had her disability reclassified by judges.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Scottish Swimming announced: “In line with International Paralympic Committee (IPC) classification process, Erraid Davies of Delting Dolphins in Shetland has been deemed ineligible to compete in the forthcoming British para swimming international meet.”

Fifteen-year-old Erraid had travelled to Glasgow to compete in this weekend’s event at the city’s Tollcross International Swimming Centre, where the Paralympic team will be chosen.

The schoolgirl has to undergo regular tests to ensure her disability is severe enough to qualify in the para events.

Her father David said the family were devastated by the developments and needed time to digest it.

He said: “In one way we are very happy (that she has been classified as able-bodied), but we know the pain that Erraid suffers quite regularly and she has difficulty walking any long distance.

“It’s a really distressing time for Erraid because since the Commonwealth Games she has been under extra pressure to get a qualifying time for Rio and now she may have lost that opportunity.”

Fellow swimmers Laura Pilkington and Kayleigh Haggo offered their sympathy on social media.

Laura said she was “gutted” for her and Kayleigh added: You’ll always be a part of our wee group, no matter what.”

Under the standard protocol, Erraid will be assessed again over the summer, probably in June.

A Scottish Swimming spokeswoman said: “We are very much working towards a new classification and hope to have news of that in the coming days.

“While Erraid and her family are extremely upset and disappointed with the outcome, they welcome the opportunity of a second review and both Scottish Swimming and British Swimming are supporting them at this time.”

The teenager has a childhood hip disorder known as Perthes’ disease in her left hip, which has allowed her to compete in the breast stroke against other people with disabilities.

She shot into the limelight in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when she won a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke at the age of 13.

Since her success as the youngest member of the Scottish swimming team, she has been training hard for the Paralympics, where she was hoping to do well.

Erraid moved to Shetland when she was just four and barely able to walk, and the islanders have taken the young swimmer to their hearts.

As well as garnering huge national media attention, she was shortlisted for a Young Scots Award.

She has been fundraising hard to help her attend training events for the Paralympics.

Earlier this week airline Loganair announced it was sponsoring her flights to and from Shetland with her mother, the first of which was to this weekend’s event in Glasgow.

Loganair director, Roy Bogle, said: “Erraid was rightly one of Scotland’s biggest success stories during what was a fabulous Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, and we are happy to make what is a small contribution to supporting her enormous talent.”