Whitebridge High School student reaches for gold as Paralympic hopeful

SUCCESS in the big smoke has come surprisingly easy for country girl Erin Cleaver.

The 13-year-old Whitebridge High School student started athletics when she was in kindergarten.

She and her family lived in Barraba, a small town north-west of Tamworth.

There, she was the cream of the crop in track and field, which her parents attributed to having a small number of competitors.

The family moved to Newcastle in 2009, where Erin continued her athletics.

Erin, who was born with right-sided hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, was seeing a specialist in Sydney who told her to consider competing as a recognised athlete with a disability.

Hesitant at first, she started competing in events for athletes with a disability in 2012.

Erin's first major event was the NSW Combined High Schools carnival last year.

She entered four events - 100 metres, 200 metres, long jump and javelin - and finished with four gold medals.

Soon after, she competed in the All Schools Athletics Championships and won four silver medals.

In December, Erin received an all-rounder school award from the Hunter Academy of Sport for her outstanding achievements.

Her mother Susan said athletics had done wonders for Erin's confidence, and she was now proud to tell her schoolmates she had a disability.

Selectors are now eyeing Erin to compete in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

She trains four times a week and has improved her personal best in long jump significantly in the past seven weeks.

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