A basketball player has been chosen to represent his country at the Special Olympics and is now calling on people to help him raise the funds to achieve his dream of gold.
Chris Southwell, of Welland Way, Oakham, was thrilled when he got the letter confirming he was in the Great Britain squad for the games in Los Angeles next year.
But the 21-year-old now faces a challenge off the court of raising £2,500 by May next year to pay for the trip which will feature a parade in front of US President Barack Obama at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Chris, who shoots hoops for Rutland Conquerors and Leicester Demons, impressed the judges during a trial in Sheffield in March to claim his place in the squad of 10.
Chris, who suffers from autism, said: “I was really quite shocked that I got picked. There were some really good players at the trials and I wasn’t sure that I did enough.
“It was a fantastic feeling when I got the letter in the post.
“I’m the only player from the East Midlands who was selected.
“It will be quite an honour to walk out with my team in front of Barack Obama.
“It’s going to be quite tough to raise the funds but I’m determined to do it.”
Former New College Stamford student Chris started playing basketball nine years ago.
At first it was for fun, playing for the Conquerors, but his hobby became serious when he was picked to represent an East Midlands team at the national Special Olympics in Leicester.
The highlight of his career so far is playing for Great Britain at the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens. Despite coming down with food poisoning, he helped the team claim third place.
Although he is proud of his bronze medal, Chris hopes to go one, or ideally, two better at next year’s event.
He said: “Athens was a great experience but I really want the gold or silver next time.
“I’m really excited at the prospect of competing for my country again.”
Chris will be meeting up with his selected GB teammates for a number of training sessions before they fly out in July next year.
The £2,500 he needs will pay for his flights, accommodation and playing kit.
Chris has been given £500 from Rutland Lions and £280 from Norman Trigg Lodge Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes in Oakham.
Chris added: “I’m really grateful for all the support I’ve had so far.
“Any more would be really appreciated.”
To sponsor Chris and help him achieve his dream, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org