A YOUNG Irish rower who set records despite battling spina bifida is desperately seeking a new team-mate to compete in the Paralympics in Rio next summer.
Katie O'Brien (18) from Clarinbridge, Galway, has already won gold for Ireland at the prestigious Henley Women's Regatta in England.
The young student, who only began rowing two years ago, has spina bifida, which left her with a weakness in her leg. However, she was determined not to let the illness hold her back.
She is now setting her sights on securing an Olympic medal at the games in Rio, training six days a week while studying for her Leaving Certificate.
But her plans hit a stumbling block after her rowing partner pulled out, leaving her desperately seeking a replacement.
"My last rowing partner had been giving it a go and said he'd try until Christmas but it wasn't for him. So now we're back looking," she said.
Katie plans to take part in Paralympic qualifiers in France in August and hopes to find a new partner in the next month.
"We're going to all the clubs for disabled sports, there are not many para-rowers in clubs so we're trying to encourage other people to get involved.
"It has to be a man who is pretty strong but had a weakness in his legs. He needs a good core but he doesn't have to have any practice. The crew which won the last Olympics had only been together for six months and they got the gold medal," she added.
Katie is continuing to train six days a week to stay in shape.
"I train after school in the gym and get on the water for two sessions on a Saturday and once on a Sunday.
"I'm more focused on finding a partner at the moment, it's the most important - but the training keeps me going," she added.
"I can't really believe I've got this far. I've only been doing it for two years but I just got hooked. I really believe we can get to Rio if we can get a partner," she added.
Anyone interested on finding out more can contact Katie's coach Peter Heaney on email@example.com.