"Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

That is the motto of the Special Olympics and for Heidi Karaba, 34, she will be living up to it when she competes in the Special Olympics Great Britain Games in Glasgow from July 1 to July 9.

However, Heidi, who lives in Bradford but works at the Oasis Caf in Ilkley, is a natural athlete who is accustomed to winning accolades.

She is a three-sport star who excels at swimming, weightlifting and ten-pin bowling, and according to her proud mother, Joan, also from Bradford, the honours Heidi has earned over the years comes to a staggering haul of 88 medals.

Joan said of Heidi: "Having Down's Syndrome, she's not good at reading and writing, but she's always been good at sport."

And Joan said she has always encouraged her daughter to play sport.

When Heidi goes to Glasgow in July, she will compete in various 100 metre swimming events.

Her strength in swimming events was shown at a recent competition in Hull where she received two golds in the butterfly and front crawl, silver in the breaststroke and a bronze in the backstroke.

Barry Thorne, activities support officer for Bradford Sport and Recreation Association for People with Disabilities, said: "Hopefully, when Heidi will come back, Ilkley will have an Olympic medal winner."

He quickly corrected himself though as he pointed out that she had already won Olympic medals, including three bronzes in the backstroke, butterfly and front crawl at the Special Olympics World Games in Dublin in June 2003.

Although Heidi did well in Dublin, it was a trying time for her and Joan as Heidi's father passed away shortly afterwards. But mother and daughter were there for each other. And Joan said: "I've got her to rely on, we're very compatible."

Margaret Poole, of Ilkley, who tutors Heidi at the Oasis Caf on Church Street, said when she talked about her father the 'tears well up in her eyes'.

Mrs Poole said: "I've never met such a caring young woman. She's always puts others before herself."

Although the warmth of Heidi's personality is apparent to all, she also possesses a toughness and independence that contributes to her being such a good athlete.

Mrs Poole said: "She's got so much guts for someone who has a disability."

Joan said Heidi had been swimming for ten years and had entered various competitions in the last eight years, which also included the Special Olympics Great Britain Games in Cardiff in 2001 and Sheffield in 1997.

Heidi's trains for approximately five hours a week, which includes swimming on Mondays and Fridays and weightlifting on Sundays.

Although Joan said Heidi was better at swimming, she said the weightlifting that she did benefited her in both sports.

Heidi also has won several weightlifting medals in various competitions and she will be competing in an upcoming British Amateur Weightlifting Association event.

"She's an all-rounder," said Mr Thorne, who stressed that athletes who competed in Special Olympics events should be looked upon as elite athletes.

He said: "These athletes are unsung sporting heroes. We should all stand up and be proud of our athletes."

Mr Thorne said 31 athletes from the Bradford district, which includes Ilkley, will compete in the Glasgow games.

And each athlete will have to raise at least £500 to cover the entrance fee, accommodation and transport costs.

Mrs Poole organised a fund-raising week for Heidi which culminated in a raffle drawing last Friday at Oasis Caf. Brian Mann, chairman of Ilkley Parish Council, attended and was decked out in his chain of office.

Coun Mann said: "I'm happy to support Heidi in her quest for gold."

As part of the fund-raiser, Mrs Poole said a percentage of Friday's caf earnings was also given to Heidi.