The teenage track star who won't let visual impairment hold her back
PUBLISHED: 17:02 27 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:11 27 November 2019
Sight loss at a young age is a difficult challenge to overcome - but hasn't stopped one Newham teenager achieving her goals.
Visually impaired athlete and NewVIc student Mercedes Jacdonmi, 17, received the outstanding achievement prize - the highest individual honour - at charity Panathlon's annual Jack Petchey awards.
It's the latest achievement for the accomplished sprinter, who is a member of the British Paralympic visually impaired squad.
Mercedes' journey through adversity to sporting excellence began at the age of eight when she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus - a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain and causes increased pressure on the skull.
The condition damaged her optic nerve and her sight could not be restored.
Her suddenly limited vision caused her many challenges and shattered her confidence.
In 2014, Mercedes began competing in Panathlon's adapted sporting competitions while attending St Angela's Ursuline School in Forest Gate, through which she discovered a love - and talent - for sprinting.
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She said: "I learned from Panathlon events never to complain, because there are others who may have their own challenges and they still try hard and succeed."
Mercedes, who is now undertaking a Btec in business, represented Newham numerous times in the Paragames Athletics - winning gold medals in 100m and long jump.
She is still revered at St Angela's as a role model and natural leader.
PE teacher Leigh Stevens said: "She's got that super caring personality; she wants everyone to do well.
"I think that because she's gone through that process, felt scared, not very confident, she now sees that in other students and wants them to build their confidence like she did.
"She's left us now, but if we go to a competition, the girls will be like, 'Remember when Mercedes did this?'"
Mercedes was a runner-up in the young leader category at Panathlon's 2017 Jack Petchey awards and has also earned a Level 1 qualification in sports leadership.
Mercedes' mum Sheila said: "I'm so proud of her. Her disability did not hold her back, it just made her go.
"Nothing has stopped her doing what she wants to do."