Sally Brown still confident of Commonwealth Games selection
Sally Brown is on track to compete for Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games.
The teenage athlete from Ballykelly has revealed that, six months on from leaving home and going to study and train at Loughborough University, she is feeling fitter, stronger and faster.
The 18-year-old admits that she misses her family and friends but acknowledges the move to England has already benefited her career.
Two years ago, Brown was competing in the 100m and 200m in the London Paralympics. In 2013 she had a nightmare with injury and illness and was dramatically rushed to a hospital operating theatre to have her appendix removed after it had turned gangrene.
Today, having switched events to the 400m, she is training harder than ever alongside other ambitious athletes in a professional environment.
And it's so far so good because all her work looks like paying off and setting her up for a shot at competing in Glasgow in August as part of Northern Ireland's 4 x 400 metres women's relay team.
It's an inspirational tale surrounding one determined young lady, who has left arm dysmelia, meaning her left arm did not develop below the elbow from birth.
Sally says: "I've been at Loughborough six months now. The time has flown by. Being away from my parents, everything seems so much more grown up.
"I'm training six days a week for two to three hours each day at the track and I'm going to College as well so I'm very busy.
"I'm re-taking my A-levels in Art and Photography and I'm hoping to do another one next year so that I end up having three A-levels.
"I have improved as an athlete since coming here. Being in an environment with other athletes striving for the same thing and going to the same level of competition has been really good for me. I have professional people around me who do this as their job which has helped me a lot.
"The training intensity has gone up since last year and I have definitely improved and now can't wait to get out and compete to see how far I have moved on."
That first race is scheduled for April 30 in Coventry and will be a 300m event to ease her into a hectic season of running 400m races.
"Competing in the Commonwealth Games is still one of my goals, and everything is looking good for that at the moment so I'm hopeful it will happen," said Sally, speaking in Loughborough at the SSE Next Generation Workshop, where she was mentoring 50 young, up-and-coming athletes.
"I won't run quick enough to compete individually but my aim is to be selected for the relay. We have some talented 400 runners for Northern Ireland so hopefully it will be a good team."
Having missed the World Paralympics Championships last year, Brown is keen to race in that competition in 2015 before the 2016 Paralympics in Rio takes over her life.
Sally says: "Everything that I'm doing is geared towards Rio. The Paralympics may be a couple of years away but they are always in the back of my mind.
"I intend to improve as much as I can between now and then and doing well in all my other races in between."