Sharita Taylor after her performance with her two coaches Tappie Dellinger and Linda Huber. (Photo: Pablo Martinez)

by Pablo Martinez Dorado, AIPS Young Reporter, Spain

GRAZ, March 21, 2017 – As a child, Sharita Taylor, now 26, was diagnosed with autism and had little chance of walking normally, let alone find success in sport.

However, instead of giving up and with the support of her family, she and twin sister Shaye discovered a passion when they were four years old: ice skating.

Thanks to this today’s reality is very far from what it might have been.

Sharita has emerged as one of the finest figure skaters and ice dancers of the United States delegations and is competing at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Graz, Austria.

She said: “Even though I was nervous when I first stepped into the ice, now I feel really good at being here. A lot of people are watching me at home and until my performance I wasn’t nervous at all.”

But Sharita is not the only one who loves ice-skating. All her family is cheering her in Graz including Shaye, also a talented skater. They started to compete when they were only eight and since then both sisters have always supported each other.

Shaye, also autistic, said: “I love her and I am really proud of what she is doing. When she started to compete, I couldn’t film anything, my hands were shaking because I was so nervous for her.”

The first thing that shows up in the screen of Sharita’s twitter account (@sharooroo90) is a revealing message offering visitors an image of her in their mind: “I have autism. No judgements please! Peace Love and Happiness. Special Olympics USA figure skater on her way to Austria! PINCH ME PLEASE!!”.

Although Sharita is devoted to ice skating, she also has a life outside sports. She works in a bank and music is another of her passions; she has even sung the National Anthem along with her sister during the Special Olympics Ohio State Summer and Winter Games as well as at Cleveland Indians games.

Sharita said: “What we are trying to do is turn our disabilities into abilities. It doesn’t matter what are you going through, because you can make it to the top if you work hard. Just be yourself and don’t let anybody says that you can’t.”

She is the only athlete from Ohio, Cleveland, chosen by the USA team and she is already spreading her city pride across the Special Olympics. NBA superstar Lebron James has supported her on Twitter:

Sharita lacks a comparative number of followers on social media but she and her sister have already established themselves among the brightest lights at the Special Olympics.

Follow Pablo on twitter: @Pablo41419

The Young Reporters Programme has been made possible thanks to the support of the European Union’s Erasmus + programme