Ryan Dickin1An inspirational Leicester teenager has set his sights on paralympic glory after transferring his basketball skills to a new sport.

Ryan Dickin, 18, from Goodwood Road, only started playing competitive rugby a month ago but has just returned from an international wheelchair competition in Germany where he picked up a bronze medal with the Leicester Tigers.

The youngster has been diagnosed with the muscle-wasting disease Hereditary Sensory Motor Neuropathy but has always refused to let his disability affect his day-to-day life.

Last year he was crowned Young Disabled Person of the Year at the Leicestershire Sports Partnership Awards.

And the Gateway College student also won a sport scholarship at Loughborough University following impressive performances on the basketball court for Leicester Cobras.

Ryan said: “Everything with rugby is happening very quickly. My doctor told Leicester Tigers about me and when they saw my basketball record they were very keen.

“They invited me to training and since then it’s all gone brilliantly.

“My disability has been classified as a 3.5 which is very rare. It means I can play but I am also one of the most able bodied people on the court. One coach has even said I’m the club’s Holy Grail.

“I’ve just got back from Cologne in Germany. We took part in one of the biggest tournaments in Europe with both international and clubs sides involved.

“We came third overall after losing in the semi-finals to the Swiss national side in a game we really should have won.

“But it’s amazing to playing against international sides just a month after taking up the sport.”

Ryan has now got his sites set on playing rugby at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio and hasn’t ruled out representing Team GB in basketball at the 2020 games.

He said: “With rugby there is a real chance I could make the 2016 Paralympics so I am going to do everything I possibly can to get there.

“It’s actually the first contact sport I have ever played and I’m still getting used to actually being able to hit people. But it’s great fun.

“With basketball I’m a bit further off but 2020 is a real possibility and again I’ll do everything I can to make it.”

Ryan attends basketball training three evenings a week, has rugby training twice a week and plays matches at weekends.

To help the teenager get to college and his sporting commitments he was recently awarded funding by leading children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation and Central England Co-Operative to purchase a new lightweight wheelchair.

At present the sportsman uses a basic wheelchair which is hard to self-propel and is causing strain to his arms.

And because his mum Lorraine has Multiple Sclerosis she is no longer able to push him around their home.

He said: “The new chair is going to make an enormous difference. It is going to be much easier to push so I will be able to get around more comfortably.

“I’m an independent person but this chair will increase my independence further and make day-to-day life easier. I’m very grateful to Newlife Foundation for their help.”

Mum Lorraine said her son currently has a wheelchair more suitable for a 75-year-old man.

Mrs Dickin said: “The chair he has at the moment is completely unsuitable for him and causes a lot of pain to his shoulders, neck and arms.

“It’s much more suited to a 75-year-old man who has someone to push him.

“Ryan already needs to take 28 painkillers every day. The pain is getting worse and his chair is aggravating that pain.

“He’s such an active boy the new lightweight chair will make a tremendous difference.

“He gets the bus to college every day and trains every day. Some days he gets the bus to college, he’s then off to Loughborough and then he gets the bus back to Leicester to play basketball. He’s always up to something.”

Newlife Foundation and Central England Co-operative stepped in to fund the £4,000 wheelchair after statutory services said they could only provide £830 towards the cost.

Mrs Dickin said she is “incredibly proud” of her son.

She added: “He has only just started playing rugby so it’s incredible that he has already been out to Germany.

“To win Young Disabled Person of the Year was amazing and I’m so proud of everything he does. I see him going to catch the bus with his sports kit on his knees. It’s brilliant how active and talented he is.

“With rugby his coaches have said he has far exceeded expectations.

“I live my life around him. I want him to be able to do everything so I’m on hand to make sure he can come home with his dinner on the table, get changed and get out again.

“I never know where he is but it is wonderful hearing about all his achievements.

“I’d like to say a big thank-you to Newlife and Central England Co-operative. Getting this chair will vastly help to reduce his pain enabling him to concentrate harder on his sporting career and help him achieve his dream of representing his country at the paralympics.”

Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children is a national charity based in Cannock, Staffordshire, and is currently looking to fund 12 Equipment Grants in Leicestershire, totalling £12,999.

Newlife was able to respond quickly to Ryan, thanks to its charity partnership with Central England Co-operative (formerly Midlands Co-operative Society).

Newlife has been Central England Co-operative’s staff elected charity since May 2012, with colleagues and customers raising £ £472,679 which, to date, has funded 204 items of specialist disability equipment.