A Dundee teen is getting closer to her dream of swimming in the Special Olympics but fears she will not make the competition due to funding difficulties.
Fifteen-year-old Taylor MacKenzie, from Downfield, qualified for June’s World Games in Berlin after being chosen by a selection panel based on previous competitions attended, commitment to training, personal goals and more.
The St John’s RC High School student, who has autism, is one of six Scots to be named in the 87-person GB squad for the Special Olympics. She is also the youngest athlete to have been selected.
But for Taylor to secure her place at the event she has to pay a contribution fee of £2,000, which goes towards travel, accommodation and other expenses.
As no clubs in Scotland have an official partnership with Team GB, Taylor does not qualify for the same funding support as other members of the group.
Her family has set up an online fundraiser to help but donations have been thin on the ground, leading to fears Taylor will miss out.
Dad Richard said: “We don’t know enough people to help with the contribution fee so we set up the Gofundme page.
“At the moment we’ve raised £290 but around £100 of that is from us.
“We’re not getting anything and that’s okay because it’s tough for people just now.
“Unlike the Olympics and Paralympics where athletes are funded, these kids aren’t.
“All this money for travel and kit has to be funded by parents and carers.
“It means if we don’t raise that money, perhaps she won’t go.”
Travel to England for training
As the only Scottish swimmer on the team, Taylor and her family have to travel for training sessions in England.
Richard, 78, said: “Grampian is the only Scottish section partnered with Team GB (for the Special Olympics) and they do not offer swimming facilities.
“Therefore, Taylor, my wife and I are considered the only region in Scotland.
“We have to come up with money these other regions have access to.”
Bright future for Taylor
Even if Taylor – who specialises in freestyle and butterfly stroke – can’t secure the funding to get to Berlin, her dad says she has a bright future in swimming.
Richard said: “She has already been looked at by those at the Paralympics but she is too young just now.
“She has been going to meets with para-swimmers and has been beating them.
“She is developing so much but her age is currently against her.”
Richard added: “Taylor loves swimming.
“Her mother first took her to the pool when she was three years old.
“She said herself that when she is in the water she doesn’t feel any less than other people.
“Nobody is judging her or what she has and she is very comfortable in there.
“She has achieved an awful lot at her age and we’re so proud of her.”