KEIGHLEY athletes with disabilities have shared in a huge medal haul at a Special Olympics.

They travelled to London with fellow members of Bradford, Keighley and Skipton Disability Athletics to compete in the event.

And the group returned with an incredible 41 medals – 16 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze.

Every athlete earned a medal or ribbon.

The achievement was all the more impressive because it was the club's first competition since gaining charity status in February.

Athletes almost didn't attend because of soaring travel costs, but Bradford Council stepped in and funded a coach.

The club began in 2015, with just four members.

Now around 30 athletes train twice a week – at University Academy Keighley – in both track and field, including sprint, middle and long- distance running, shot putt, long jump and standing long jump.

The athletes are aged between eight and 51 and have a variety of conditions or disabilities, such as Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and sight and hearing problems, and there are frame and wheelchair users.

Athletes compete in categories according to age, gender and ability.

Three members are currently at Paralympic training camps receiving one-to-one coaching.

Coaching assistant Val Lightowler, who set-up the organisation with head coach Janet Arkwright, said taking part in the sports had both physical and wellbeing benefits for the athletes.

"It’s the power of sport," she said. "It’s really good motivation for them and keeps them fit and healthy – they just love it.

"For these guys it’s not just about fitness, but also being able to vent some of the issues they face every day by taking part in sport. It gives them a goal as well and motivates them to go out twice a week and do exercise, which is a big thing. Some of them find it easier to focus on themselves rather than do a team sport, but they are brilliant at encouraging each other."

Athletes can also attend wellbeing sessions with the organisation Step 2, which provides a youth worker to talk about friendships, good relationships and how to keep safe and well.

The club – which is affiliated to England Athletics – soon plans to also offer training in discus, javelin and hammer.

And it hopes to represent Great Britain at the Special Olympics in Berlin next year.

Athletes train on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 6pm-7.30pm. For more details, email