AN “outstanding” teenager who has overcome a crippling illness to become a sporting role model led the honours at a prestigious North-East sports awards ceremony.

Lydia Shale, 16, was named “the winner of winners” at the 43rd Darlington Sports Winners Grand Final for refusing to allow her disability to get in the way of her passion for sport.

Lydia, deputy head girl at Wyvern Academy in the town, was presented with her trophy – named in memory of former Mayor Ron Lewis – by Darlington Rotary Club President Paul Robinson.

Guests at the ceremony, hosted by Darlington College, were told that Lydia turned her attention to coaching others in a range of sports after being diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder.

Despite waking up each day not knowing if she will be able to walk, Lydia has battled through adversity and has also become an advocate for mental health.

“She is quite simply an outstanding young lady who deserves full recognition for all she has done and will continue to do for sport in Darlington,” said senior awards committee member Brian Dobinson.

Lydia said: “I’ve always been dedicated to sport and to have it taken away was the hardest thing, but I’ve been able to get through it by helping others.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by another former Mayor, Lee Vasey, went to a 78-year-old who has dedicated 46 years of his life to badminton.

Peter Walton, head coach of Dolphin Premier Badminton Club, was honoured for guiding countless young badminton players during an illustrious career.

Peter said: “It’s hard to find someone to take over, so as long as I’ve got arms and legs, I’ll just carry on because I just love the sport.”

The current Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Veronica Copeland, presented another of the evening’s top awards, The Mulheim Cup, to Karen Harland, who combines her job as a nurse at Darlington Memorial Hospital with her hobby of taking photographs of local athletics events, including the Darlington Park Run every Saturday.

Councillor Copeland said: “It has been a privilege to see the depth of talent we have in Darlington.”


Under-11s Club/Team: Darlington Young Bulls Under-11s

Under-17s Club/Team: Darlington FC Girls’ Under-13s

Service To Sport Over-17: John Thompson for services to basketball

Service To Sport Under-17: Lydia Shale

Secondary School Team: Longfield Year 7 Football

Primary School Team: Abbey Year 5 Cross-Country

Disability Sports Achiever: Cerebral Palsy athlete India Oates

Secondary Schools and Further Education Sports Achiever: Swimmer Harriet Rogers

Primary Sports Achiever: Swimmer Hugo Douglas-Reeves

Lifetime Achievement: Peter Walton

Councillor Brian Jones Award: Darlington FC Girls’ Under-13s

Ron Lewis Award: Lydia Shale

Mulheim Cup: Karen Harland