Varun Bandi is already making a name for himself in wheelchair racing.
And a fundraising campaign to provide a special wheelchair and equipment to take him to the next level is already gathering supporters.
The 16-year-old is one of the founder members of Bedford Wheelchair Racing, which he helped set up three years ago.
Within a year he had competed in the London mini marathon, coming 3rd in his age group. He has twice been awarded the Junior Disabled Sportsman of the Year award at the annual Bedford Sports Awards. He races both on the road and also the track and is ranked in the top 10 in the country in both the 800m and 1500m distances. He is also ranked 5th in the 100m distance.
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Even Covid didn’t deter his training. During lockdowns he trained on rollers via zoom with his trainers.
To be able to compete at Paralympic level Varun now needs a proper racing chair at a cost of more than £5,000, including wheels, and his cause has been taken up by local Rotary Clubs, including the Rotary Club of Flitwick Vale.
John Little from the Flitwick Vale group said Varun was well known in the area, where he works delivering newspapers in his wheelchair.
"Varun is exceptionally good and really has the potential to represent the country,” he said. The club, and several others have each donated £500 to help his family with the cost, and a GoFundMe has been set up for the balance.
Varun is a young man and still growing, said John, so he needs a new larger, faster wheelchair to remain competitive.
In January, the Redborne Upper School student broke his leg in an accident while delivering papers in his normal wheelchair, but is now getting back to full fitness and has been fitted for his new racing wheelchair. In September he starts at Bedford College and along with his Paralympic hopes, he wants to join a business apprenticeship.
On the club’s Facebook page the group says: “The finished chair will be bright red and should be delivered in August and then Varun can really begin to fly. Remember his name, one day you may see him at the Paralympics.”
And its supporters have been praising Varun's ambitions. One said: “I met and practiced racing with and against Varun, when I briefly joined Bedford wheelchair racing, needless to say he left me standing. He is a lovely young man and a great racing talent. He will indeed be a great asset to Team GB Paralympic team.”
Another added: “Seen him zipping about delivering papers he is a true inspiration – good luck for the future.”
The Bedford Wheelchair club has two qualified coaches who take sessions on Sunday mornings, from 10.30 am until 12 noon, at the Bedford International Athletic Stadium. For newcomers to the sport all equipment is supplied.
If other young people would like to join or just try out the sport, contact Howard Darbon at [email protected] for further information.
To find out more about Varun's appeal go to http://www.gofundme.com/f/varuns-wheelchair-racer.