PROUD father and cycling coach, Tim Curtis, is thrilled, after his cyclist daughter Ella and other Bradford athletes formed a key part of the most successful Great Britain team ever to grace the Special Olympics.

Sixteen-year-old Ella, from Baildon, won a bronze medal in the 500m time trial event in Abu Dhabi this month, and was the only competitor on three wheels instead of two.

She went five seconds quicker than ever before to achieve that, then shaved an incredible 12 seconds off her personal best to come sixth in the 1km time trial.

Ella, who has Down's Syndrome, has gone bigger and better over the years, and has already set some long-term goals.

Her dad enthused: "She entered local competitions, then a national camp in Sheffield. Without those steps, she wouldn't have had the confidence to compete at these Olympics.

"She was as cool as a cucumber in Abu Dhabi and wasn't fazed by the number of people.

"She now wants to compete at a national camp in Liverpool in 2021, then the Berlin Olympics in 2023.

"As I was the cycling coach, I couldn't devote too much time to Ella, but she's been able to cope so well independently. She's been speaking in full sentences since she got back, which she wasn't doing before we left."

Ella was welcomed back with a special Olympian brunch at her school, Titus Salt School in Baildon, yesterday morning.

It made her dad's stresses seem worthwhile too, with his workload increasing unexpectedly while in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Curtis said: "One of the athletes had to go home halfway through the competition with the head coach so I took over with running the whole team.

"It's such an intense couple of weeks. I only slept about four hours a night because you have to consider all the mental health and social needs of the special athletes.

"One of my first tasks as head coach was to debate with officials that they had put three of our athletes in the wrong category for an event.

"They all got re-allocated eventually and won medals so it was worth it. It was a real baptism of fire though."

Meanwhile, Ella wasn't the only Bradford athlete to shine.

Keighley's horse-riding duo James Reed-Griffiths and T-Jay Wilson won two golds each, while Eccleshill pair Neil Hartley and Mark Rhodes won gold and bronze in basketball and golf respectively.

Mr Curtis said: "I know the Bradford crew well so my heart was bursting with pride for them. They exceeded our wildest expectations."

Mark is the oldest of the successful Bradford quintet, and after his bronze medal, mother Janet was quick to praise the organisation of the Olympics in Abu Dhabi.

She enthused: "These world games were superb, great care was taken of the athletes and so much extra effort was put into their experience by the organisers.

"The families were treated with respect and kindness, and nothing was too much trouble.

"The games were broadcast live on two dedicated television channels and stories were carried in the national press. Everyone seemed to know about the games, it was unbelievable."

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