Three Teesside gymnasts swapped Middlesbrough for the Middle East to take on the world at the Special Olympics 2019.
And they’ve returned home triumphant with a string of medals – including one gold.
The talented trio, Sean Jewitt, Caroline Jennison and Mica Hoare, travelled to Abu Dhabi as part of the 128-strong GB team to compete against athletes from 170 other countries.
In the run up to the global competition, the group – who all have Down’s syndrome – trained three times a week at Middlesbrough College’s specialist facilities with head coach and Caroline’s mum Sandra Jennison and coach Doreen Kidger.
And their hard work paid off as they returned home with an impressive 13 Olympic medals.
Sean, 25, from Stockton, won two silver and five bronze medals in artistic gymnastics, where he performed routines on apparatus such as the pommel horse and still rings.
Meanwhile 38-year-old Caroline, from Eston, won gold, silver and bronze medals in rhythmic gymnastics – the same category as 19-year-old Mica, also from Eston, who won one silver and two bronze medals.
Coach Sandra said: “Watching Sean, Mica and Caroline perform on the world stage in Abu Dhabi was one of our proudest moments.
“They trained even harder after qualifications and it was fantastic to see it all pay off – they did so well and represented the country and Teesside incredibly.
“Before travelling to compete, they’d only met the team GB coaches three times which shows their bravery, commitment and determination – they should all be so proud of themselves because we all certainly are.”
The group, who are looking to compete in the Summer Games in 2021, returned to Middlesbrough College hoping to inspire other athletes.
Mica said: “It was fantastic to find out that we had been chosen to go to Abu Dhabi and the whole experience was amazing.
“Our coaches Sandra and Doreen are so encouraging – Sandra even submitted the application form for us to represent at the Olympics.”
Caroline said: “My family are so proud and I feel really honoured to say that I was able to take part in the Olympics.
“We were there for quite a while so were able to explore Abu Dhabi and learn some Arabic which was a great experience.
“We even got to meet Nicole Scherzinger as she attended the closing ceremony!”
Sean added: “Competing was really nerve-wrecking but it was so worth it. We got to spend two weeks in Abu Dhabi which was such a brilliant opportunity.
“The whole experience was amazing – from competing in another part of the world to coming home with seven medals.”
Paula Metcalfe, a gymnastics coach at Middlesbrough College’s Gymworld, added: “It was a wonderful moment welcoming Sean, Caroline and Mica back to Middlesbrough College – along with their medals.
“We were all routing for the trio and knew they’d do Great Britain and Teesside proud.
“They’re shining examples of some of the fantastic athletes who’ve trained here at Middlesbrough College and we know they’ll go on to have more success in the future.”