A badminton player who regularly competes in Belper and Ripley is set to represent Great Britain at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi.
James Wyatt, 26, will fly to the United Arab Emirates next month to compete internationally for the first time having only been playing the sport for five years.
And for Smalley-based James, who has high functioning autism and plays and coaches extensively in Derby and the surrounding area, it is an exciting prospect.
He said: “I’ve only been playing badminton for about five years but my dad encouraged me to go for a place in the SOGB team and it’s paid off.
“It’s one of the biggest things that’s ever happened to me in a sporting sense and I’m really excited about going.
“I’ve competed in England, Scotland and Wales but never abroad as yet. We’re not entirely sure of the standard we’ll be up against but there will be some very strong countries taking part and it will be a great experience.”
James will compete in both the men’s singles and the mixed doubles alongside the only other badminton player Team GB will take to Abu Dhabi, Scotland’s Kerry Duncan.
He will fly out on March 6 before competing a week later, with family and friends due to travel to the UAE to support him.
He said: “We’ve had some training and team bonding camps in Sheffield and Scotland, involving those from all sports as well as just the badminton players, and once we’ve had time acclimatising in Abu Dhabi and all the divisioning has taken place to ensure a level playing field when it comes to competition, the matches will get underway.
“I’ve had some specialist one-on-one coaching since September which has really helped my game a lot and I’m confident I’ll play well.”
While James says there may be the opportunity to compete again in the Olympics should things go well in Abu Dhabi, he’s also keen to see others take the opportunity.
He said: “I could get picked again for future Olympics if I wanted to be available but I also think it would be good to let someone else have a go, especially if it’s someone I’m coaching or playing with regularly. I might also like to get involved on the coaching side of things so could also go to future Games in that capacity.”
Meanwhile, James will have another exciting venture to look forward to upon his return from Abu Dhabi, with the formation of a new badminton club.
The Derbyshire All Stars will meet, train and eventually compete at Derby Arena on Wednesday evenings, and will welcome players who have intellectual disabilities such as autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, Down’s Syndrome and also those who are hard of hearing.
James added: “Initially it will just be a case of gathering players together and then building on that to hopefully start competing before too long.
“Of those already signed up, several of us have competed beforehand but any who haven’t will be slowly integrated in.”