JODIE OUNSLEY has been given more recognition for her achievements with a nomination for the 2018 Young Deaf Sports Personality of the Year award.
The 17-year-old from Thornhill was born profoundly deaf, but has never let that hold her back from achieving in a number of sports.
Her focus is now on a career in rugby union, and she was part of the England team that won the inaugural World Deaf Rugby Sevens Championships earlier in the year.
She has featured for England U18s, and will be playing this season for Loughborough Lightning in the Tyrrell’s Premiership, one of the best domestic leagues in the world.
Her achievements have seen her nominated for the Sports Personality award, and Ounsley says she is “flattered” to be up for the prize.
“I don’t expect awards or praise but I was delighted to hear I’d been nominated and made the shortlist of three finalists,” she said.
“My nomination is for rugby success but the others nominated are from tennis and football. They are already winners in their own field. It’s very flattering to be nominated for awards and I’m looking forward to a big night out at Old Trafford.”
The Dewsbury-born star is now at Loughborough College, training full-time while studying as part of England Rugby’s elite pathway.
The women’s game has grown hugely in the past couple of years, and Jodie is aiming for the top.
“Women’s rugby now offers amazing opportunities, particularly at international level,” she said. “I’ve been to Australia and Bulgaria in recent months so hopefully I’ll be travelling again soon.
“It’s my aim to make a full-time career playing rugby. My longer term aims would be to play at a World Cup with England women, and to compete at an Olympic Games for Great Britain in Sevens.”
Ounsley says that being deaf can be a disadvantage but also a positive, and she believes that a disability shouldn’t hold anyone back from trying sport.
“There has been a couple of embarrassing occasions I’ve not heard the whistle and continued running to score tries,” she admits.
“An advantage I’ve found is my other senses really help out. I always play with my head up looking for the body language and signals from my teammates.
“Playing this way helps me identify opportunities and space in which to attack. Much of the communication is done through short instructions and signals so I manage fine.
“My coaches and teammates have also been really helpful in ensuring I pick up all the information. Some simple adjustments like explaining new stuff face-to-face in training makes being deaf no issue.
“I definitely wouldn’t let a disability put people off trying rugby or other sports. I’d say be open about what you can and can’t do and maybe suggest ideas to get around issues. I’ve found people are generally keen to accommodate you.”
Her journey has been slowed at the moment by a shoulder injury, but she says she will come back stronger.
“There’s never a good time to get injured but I’d just been invited to trials with England U20s and also England women Sevens. All of that is on hold until I’m fully fit.
“I’m working really hard on rehab three times a day. I’m still able to do most of the strength and conditioning sessions with my premiership club Loughborough Lightning, they have been great adapting my programs.
“My aim is to come back with improved skills, (be) stronger, faster and with a more injury resistant body.”
It has also allowed her to pick up her athletics as well, one of a number of sports that the multi-talented Ounsley has competed in.
Last year she represented Great Britain in the 100m and 200m at the Deaflympics, and she has had trials with the GB skeleton team as well.
“Rugby is now my priority and training full-time gives me very little opportunity for athletics,” she said.
“At some point in the future they will clash with my rugby and I would have to decide. I’m just keeping my options open at the moment.”
The 2018 Deaf Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony will be held on November 10 at Old Trafford.