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Christopher McDonnell Wins Northumberland Gazette Sports Personality Of The Year

Christopher McDonnell, a player from Newcastle United Foundation’s Downs syndrome team, has been named the Northumberland Gazette Sports Personality of the Year for 2015.

The 24 year old from Longhoughton has shone in the swimming pool and on the football field in the last 12 months.  But what is even more special, is that he has achieved this against a backdrop of difficulties, from living with Down’s syndrome to undergoing two major open-heart surgeries when he was younger.

Christopher’s 2015 résumé certainly makes for fine reading. At the European Down’s Syndrome Swimming Competition, he swam six personal bests (PB), won two gold medals, one silver and a bronze. He also achieved two European qualifying times and was selected for the England C relay team.

Then, at the Reading Learning Disability Open (incorporating the Special Olympic Southern Regional Gala), he achieved three PBs, a hat-trick of medals, including a gold, and two European qualifying times. Christopher, an Alnwick Dolphin, is working towards training with the GB Down’s syndrome swimming squad.

Out of the pool, he plays football for the Newcastle United Foundation Down’s syndrome team. The side reached the semi-final of a six-a-side national competition and he played in all of the matches. Towards the end of the year, he scored a hat-trick against Norwich, to pull the score back to 4-4.

Christopher said it was amazing to top the poll and dedicated the award to all of the people who have helped him over the years, including his former swimming coaches David Davison and John Lester, as well as current mentors Paul Saxon and Mary Purvis.

Among those to share in Christopher’s special moment at Alnwick Playhouse last week was older brother Alex, who was back from Dubai, and parents Neal and Helen, who thanked everyone who voted for their son. Neal said: “It means so much that people have supported Christopher. The trophy has taken pride of place at home.”

Reggie Dornan, Disability Coach at Newcastle United Foundation, said: “Chris is hugely deserving of this award – he works incredibly hard to achieve his goals and is a fantastic character to have in our team.  We’re so proud of his achievement – huge congratulations from everyone at the Foundation.”

 Winning the Gazette trophy topped off a good night’s work for Christopher, who also took the Sports Council’s prize for Most Improved Sports Person.

Read Chris’ inspirational story here:

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