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Hazel is Golden girl at Special Olympics

Hazel is Golden girl at Special Olympics

4Nations Parabadminton champion Hazel Johnson has continued her impressive year winning 2 Gold and 1 silver medal at the recent Special Olympics 2011 Summer World Games… and then paid tribute to the coach that got her there in the first place!

Johnson, from Lancashire, was one of 3 English badminton players who travelled out to Greece last month to join over 7,500 other athletes from 186 nations competing across 26 sports at the Special Olympics staged in Athens.

But Johnson has insisted she would never have made it out to compete in Athens had it not had been for the fund raising efforts of badminton coach Rachel Burke of Bolton Lads and Girls Badminton Club - one of 10 clubs nationally on BADMINTON England’s new ‘Inclusive Clubs’ initiative.

Burke climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise over £12,000 to fund sending 5 athletes to the Games.

The triple medal winner said “I wouldn’t be going to Greece if it wasn’t for Rachel” before dubbing the badminton coach a “hero”.

In fact, it was Wigan-based Johnson who then produced the heroics on court - partnering namesake Briony Johnson [Shropshire] to gold in the Division F3 Ladies Doubles before going solo to take the title in the Division F2 Ladies Singles tournament without dropping a game despite determined opponents from Japan, Hong Kong and Pakistan.

And if a haul of 2 golds wasn’t enough to celebrate, Hazel then claimed a silver medal in the Division XDS Mixed Doubles alongside Scotland’s Grant Hunter. The pairing won 2 of their 3 games but could not overcome a strong pair from Indonesia.

Johnson’s fine haul put the shine on a Great Britain squad collection of 3 Gold, 3 Silver and 5 bronze medals from the Games, which included a credible 3rd place in the Division M11 Men’s Singles for Shropshire’s Darren Roberts.