SPORTING history will be made by a wheelchair-bound Herefordshire woman at the Paralympics in China.
Josie Pearson will become the first British woman to play wheelchair rugby for her country on the Paralympic stage.
The 22-year-old, who lives in Brilley, is the youngest member of the 12-strong British wheelchair rugby squad for the Beijing games.
Five years ago, Josie broke her neck in an horrific car accident in which her 19-year-old boyfriend Daniel Evans died.
Josie, then 17, spent five months in hospital after the accident and has shown a remarkable determination and fighting spirit ever since. She has put on hold her wheelchair racing in the 100m, 200m and 400m to concentrate on rugby and her selection for the British team is a remarkable achievement. The former Fairfield High School student is in London this week training for the Canada Cup rugby competition. She took up rugby less than three years ago and has just returned from playing at the International Wheelchair Rugby Super Series in Australia.
"I picked up the basics pretty quickly," said Josie, who plays for the Cardiff Pirates team.
"I'm still pretty new to the game but I love it. It's an adrenaline sport and a brilliant sport. The guys are welcoming and I never felt singled out just because I am a girl.
"We need more girls to play because there's only a handful of us. The sport is growing phenomenally fast but we still need more girls and more publicity."
Her mum, Sue Pearson, said the family hoped to watch Josie make her games debut in September. "We have known for the past month that Josie would be going to China, but we had to keep it a secret until the squad was officially announced," she said. "We are hoping to go out to Beijing to see her play."
Mrs Pearson, who owns Shoes at Number Two in Hay-on-Wye, added: "Josie is a very determined person and has been playing wheelchair rugby for less than three years."
Josie, a former Hereford Sixth Form College student, has always been interested in sport.
At the time of her accident, in May 2003, Josie had just started training with Golden Valley Pony and Riding Clubs.
In May 2005, she returned to the saddle to ride Jaro (Kilimanjaro) for a dressage exhibition at the Riding for the Disabled Centre's internal show.
Then, horse-mad Josie said she hoped one day to compete in the Paralympics as an equestrian competitor.
Today she says sport plays an important part in her life.
"If you're interested in sport, no matter what ability you are, give it a go. It can benefit you physically and mentally. It's about what you put in. "I've been able-bodied and a wheelchair-user and sport has always benefited me. "Sport has improved my day-to-day life in terms of confidence. I love sport, so it's all I want to do."
ParalympicsGB chief executive Phil Lane is thrilled with the Herefordshire woman's selection in the British team.
"I'm delighted to see that Josie is among the squad as she will become Britain's first ever female wheelchair rugby player at a Paralympic Games. It shows that the sport in Britain is growing and developing in its appeal and competitive scope."
The wheelchair rugby events at the Paralympics, involving the world's eight top-ranked countries, will take place at the University of Science and Technology gym, Beijing, from September 12 to 16.
Britain face New Zealand in their opening game, followed by matches against Germany and Australia.