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Maya-ray defies the odds to represent Great Britain

A Hugh Baird College student is gearing up to represent Great Britain in Freestyle Kayaking at the International Canoe Federation World Championships in Argentina later this year.

Maya-ray Cross, who is studying on the College’s Outdoor Education course, has been kayaking for nine years but only took up freestyling a year ago. What is even more impressive is that Maya-ray suffers from a genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The disorder results in abnormally fragile tissues throughout the body which means Maya-ray has a high risk of dislocating joints and suffering from chronic joint pain.

Freestyle kayaking is a fun, fast and dynamic discipline of the sport of kayaking. Freestyle paddlers use white water waves to perform surf and gymnastic-style manoeuvres and tricks. The sport uses short kayaks designed to surf and spin across the water surface, and release up into the air.

At the World Championships, Maya-ray will line up in the junior category and is likely to be one of the youngest athletes at the event.

During competitions such as the World Championships, freestyle kayakers gain points for every different rotation they perform. These can be cartwheels, spins, somersaults, barrel rolls and more. Bonus points awarded if they can get their boat out of the water and up into the air. Competition runs last for 45 seconds in which competitors have to perform as many different moves as possible. Each different move scores points and the highest overall score wins.

Dedicated Maya-ray and her devoted Mother and Father make the 200 mile round trip to Nottingham each weekend in order to have access to a specially designed inlet gate that allows Maya-ray to practise new tricks and spins in realistic competition conditions.

Speaking after her call up to the Great Britain squad, Maya-ray said:

“As you can imagine, I was delighted when I got the call. It’s now time for me to put in the training and make sure I bring home a medal."

“Despite what people may think, including some of the physiotherapists and doctors I’ve seen over the years, the sport of freestyle kayaking has actually helped with my condition.”

“I feel like freestyle kayaking has strengthened my joints and in a way is acting as physiotherapy for me. In addition to the physical benefits, the sport has really helped my mental wellbeing. Suffering from the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome condition had taken its toll on me and I was feeling down quite a lot. After I took up freestyle kayaking, I felt upbeat and positive. It continues to make me feel that way today. It’s made me realise that I shouldn’t be defined by my condition and that I can achieve if I train and work hard.”

Hugh Baird College Assistant Principal for Vocational Studies and Foundation Learning, Janet Trigg, said:

“On behalf of all at Hugh Baird College, I would like to congratulate Maya-ray on her inspiring achievement and we wish her the best of luck when she travels to Argentina.”

Maya-ray writes a blog about her experiences, to access her blog please visit her Facebook page:

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