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Uttlesford school and charity back Ukrainian athlete's Paralympics dream

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A Ukrainian athlete, whose career has been backed by an Uttlesford school and charity, refused to let her father's capture by the Russian Army destroy her Paralympics dream.

Anastasiia Laletina, 19, pulled out of the biathlon middle-distance sitting final after learning her soldier dad had been taken prisoner and beaten last month.

But she was back in action the next day to take ninth place in the qualifying heat of the para cross-country skiing women's sprint sitting race. She was then ninth in the para biathlon women's individual sitting final. Before her father was taken by the Russian invaders, she also took 10th place in the para biathlon women's sprint sitting final.

Anastasiia Laletina (55920686)
Anastasiia Laletina (55920686)

By the end of the games in the Chinese capital, she and her 19 teammates had amassed 29 medals to finish second in the table to the host nation.

Anastasiia, known as Nastia, is from the city of Chernihiv, 50 miles from Chernobyl where disaster struck the nuclear power plant in 1986.

She is unable to walk and has been treated by the Revival Centre which is backed by UK-AID, based in Leaden Roding.

Pauline Craven and Alan Hilliar (55921595)
Pauline Craven and Alan Hilliar (55921595)

Since its inception in 1996, the centre has treated over 27,000 children, especially those genetically affected by the Chernobyl meltdown.

Felsted Prep School has been supporting Nastia and her family, through UK-AID, for a number of years.

As a child, she won competitions for her wheelchair dancing, but when she grew out of her wheelchair in her teens, it looked as if she would have to give up on her dream of competing until the private school raised funds to buy her a new athletic model.

Felsted Prep's charities coordinator Julie Green visited Ukraine in 2018 and presented the wheelchair to Nastia, then aged 17.

Soon after, the teenager took up biathlon – skiing and shooting – and qualified for a place in the Ukrainian Paralympic team.

Julie said: "The staff and pupils at Felsted are proud to have played even a small part in her incredible achievement. Felsted Prep continues to support families through UK-AID."

This term Felsted has raised £14,693 to fund humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees. In addition, many car boots full of toiletries were donated and have been transported to refugee centres in Moldova.

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