FIVE Bradford athletes are gearing up to take part in the third Special Olympics World Games, which are being held in Abu Dhabi from March 14-22.

The quintet of sporting superstars are Mark Rhodes (golf); Ella Curtis (cycling); Neal Hartley (basketball); James Reed-Griffiths and T-Jay Wilson (equestrian).

Mr Rhodes, who has autism, is from Eccleshill, and his proud mother Janet was happy to tell all about her 34-year-old son and the Special Olympics.

She said: "It's a safe and structured environment when everyone is in their disability teams. It's comforting for the athletes because it can be quite bewildering when they're out in the open.

"Some people, like Mark, have a hidden disability. He hides it well and comes across as just shy and quiet, but even just getting the bus is difficult for him.

"But in their teams, they learn to communicate and relax. Mark's blossomed since he started 10 years ago and his social life has really improved."

Last year, the Telegraph & Argus reported how the athletes had to raise thousands of pounds just to get to Abu Dhabi, but Ms Rhodes admitted that the support was overwhelming.

She said: "Bradford Disability Sport and the athletes' parents have been so dedicated towards raising money.

"Friends that Mark has met through work have kept giving him money to put towards the trip too.

"It was £2,500 just for Mark to go, so without all this back up it would have been a struggle."

Ms Rhodes praised the athletes' togetherness, saying: "The five from Bradford look out for each other and Mark has a strong network with the other golfers.

"There's a good team spirit as they train as a squad and they'll keep an eye out if one is a wanderer or maybe, in Abu Dhabi, if one gets a bit hot for example."

The environment in the United Arab Emirates will be far removed from the cold UK weather but Ms Rhodes was at pains to complement the hosts.

She said: "They've referred to all the competitors as "people of determination" and for the golfers like Mark, they've given each caddy a buggy to take them round in.

"The British athletes are being hosted in Dubai and they'll spend two or three days there learning about the culture and exploring."

Asked about her son's goals, Ms Rhodes said: "There's only 7,500 athletes in total so just to be selected is an honour.

"I've told him to try and come back with his personal best and if he wins a medal, that's a bonus."

The five Bradford athletes and their Great Britain teammates fly out to the UAE from Heathrow on Friday, March 8.