A promising young athlete whose career was put on hold by cancer will today compete again in the sport she loves.
Niamh Hardy, aged 16, won her first major prize in the six-event hexathlon just weeks before doctors found that a pain in her back was neuroblastoma – which affects the nerve cells and is rarely present in teenagers.
The Birley Community College pupil fought through intensive treatments and a 13-hour surgery to remove the tumour.
But today Niamh will take part in her first competition after she was given the all clear, and will wear a ribbon to remember other youngsters who have lost their cancer fight.
Proud mum Rachel, of Fox Lane, Birley, said: “I think the sport has kept her going through it all. Her focus has always been on getting better, like she used to focus on competitions. Now when she competes it will be in honour of others that lost their fight against this disease.
“She always says she is lucky, that she has a second chance.”
Niamh joined the City of Sheffield Athletics Club at the age of nine.
She was hoping to follow in the footsteps of her idol Jessica Ennis by becoming a multi-event athlete - the hexathlon is made up of hurdles, long jump, javelin, high jump, shot putt and 800m - when her family was devastated by the news she had cancer.
Brave Niamh endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stem cell treatment which required her to spend up to a month in Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Despite being weak and exhausted she insisted on doing the Race for Life last year in a wheelchair with a team of 50 people, raising thousands of pounds.
Niamh, who is currently sitting her GCSEs, working as a children’s coach, and taking an officials’ course, said: “The diagnosis was a shock because I was a full time sports girl, I did athletics most nights a week.
“But I always thought about it one step at a time, I didn’t look forward to what was going to happen months ahead, it was more about, ‘Next week I’ve got chemotherapy, be ready’.
“I was always determined to get back into my sport.
“In the past yes, I wanted to be like Jessica Ennis, but now I am just glad to be able to go down to the track and do my events that I love.”
Niamh, who also thanked her coach Martin Bishell for his support, has been nominated for a Star Superkids award by her family.
Rachel added: “She is inspirational and I do think she deserves recognition.”