Chepstow paralympic sprinter overcomes the odds to compete

South Wales Argus: Paralympic sprinter overcomes the odds to compete Paralympic sprinter overcomes the odds to compete

A sprinter who has continued to overcome the odds since birth is just days away from her quest for Paralympic gold.

Jenny McLoughlin weighed just two and a half pounds when she was born prematurely at 33 weeks, spending her first few weeks in an incubator.

But the little fighter astounded parents Peter and Margaret, not needing a ventilator to help her breathe nor letting cerebral palsy prevent her from enjoying an active childhood like her peers.

The couple, who spoke to the Free Press from the family home near Chepstow, said everyone close to the 20-year-old has been jointly amazed and thrilled by her progress.

Mrs McLoughlin was rushed into hospital following complications in the later stages of the pregnancy, after little Jenny stopped growing at 28 weeks.

At the time, it was touch and go whether she would survive.

"The placenta was practically worn away so it was lucky they took her at the time or it might have been a different story," said Mrs McLoughlin.

"I always say she was desperate to get on with it, that's why she was premature and that has been her attitude ever since," Mr McLoughlin added.

At the age of six months, the couple were told their 'little miracle' had cerebral palsy after they noticed she was not using her right hand.

The condition, called 'hemiplegia', affects the movement in her right arm and leg.

However, young Jenny learned to ride a bike, taught other pupils in her swimming class how to do a perfect breaststroke and played netball.

"She has always been a fighter throughout her life," said Mr McLoughlin.

Her love for athletics stemmed from cross-country running when she joined Lewis running club in Sussex, where she moved with her dad's job.

Aged 13, Jenny relocated again to just outside Chepstow and she followed in the footsteps of her brother Simon, now 23, who joined Cwmbran athletics club.

It was there she developed her talents in the 100m and 200m and a year later she was spotted by performance manager Anthony Hughes from Disability Sport Wales.

Under the care of Dai Green's former coach Darrell Maynard, Jenny flourished and was picked for the Paralympics in Beijing in 2008.

She failed to make the finals in both her events, but now has a silver medal from the 2010 Commonwealth Games to her name and another from this year's European Championships.

"She has been quite incredible really and it has been down to her personality and determination," said Mrs McLoughlin.

Jenny trains six times a week in Cardiff, as well as building up the strength in her right hand side in the gym.

She was due to fly back from the Paralympic training camp in Portugal on Tuesday ahead of the 100m on Saturday.

On September 4, she will run the last leg in the 4 x 100m final and the day after, will compete in her favourite event, the 200m.

Hopes are high she will bring home a medal, cheered on by her family, friends and countless team GB supporters.

"It's terrific to see the public support" said Mrs McLoughlin.

"When they get to the line and they are in the top three it's an incredible feeling as a parent. I know she's enjoying every minute," she added.

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