A DEAF 15-year-old girl from Thornhill is defying medical odds to take rugby union by storm.
Jodie Ounsley, who is profoundly deaf and has a chronic knee condition, is the top try-scorer for Sandal Girls U-15s near Wakefield.
And she scored twice on her debut for Yorkshire two weeks ago in a 59-10 win over Leicestershire.
Her explosive running, deadly finishing and solid defence also earned her an invitation to train with the England deaf team.
She said: “It’s a fantastic sport for girls and I’m having a brilliant time. I’ve made loads of new friends and am fitter than I’ve ever been.”
Jodie's sports career was on hold for two years due to knee problems caused by Osgood-Schlatter Disease, which affects the upper part of the shin and is characterised by a painful lump just below the knee.
But medical advice to completely rest the knee worked wonders for the sports-mad youngster. She was crowned junior world coal carrying champion in Gawthorpe four times and won five sprint titles at the Deaf Athletics Championship.
Jodie, who only took up rugby union last October, also won gold at the British Open Brazilian jiu jitsu finals.
She said: “I didn’t think I’d ever get to play rugby because I had a cochlear implant when I was a toddler – but a headguard means everything is protected.
“There are a few communication issues with my teammates and coaches sometimes, but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome.
“Deafness isn’t something that should prevent anyone from realising their dreams in sport.”
Her coach at Sandal, Andy Bevan, said Jodie is a rare talent and tipped her for England honours.
He said: “Jodie’s progress is testimony to what all children can achieve by becoming involved in sport.”
Jodie’s call-up by Yorkshire came fittingly on the eve of Deaf Awareness Week.
Roger Wicks, director of policy and campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss, praised her achievements.
He said: “We’re tearing up society’s assumptions and turning the spotlight on the amazing things deaf people and people with hearing loss can do.
“It’s therefore inspiring to see Jodie succeeding on the rugby field – proving deafness is no barrier to incredible achievement.”
• Anyone who needs advice can call Action on Hearing Loss on 0808 808 0123 or textphone 0808 808 9000.