- Jodie Ounsley is rising through rugby's ranks
- The 16-year-old was born prematurely and is profoundly deaf
- To mark International Women’s Day, England Rugby is celebrating inspirational women. Find your inspiration.
Nothing has ever held Jodie Ounsley back.
A British jiu jitsu champion, junior Team GB sprinter and more recently, a rising rugby star, the 16-year-old's sporting CV is all the more remarkable considering she was born profoundly deaf.
"Jodie was born prematurely and has a cochlear implant," says her father Phil. "She uses speech and lip reading to communicate."
As a result, Jodie's athletic journey has always been rather unique, and it was an unusual local tradition that highlighted her extraordinary ability.
From carrots to coal
"I remember when she was three and I was training for the World Coal Carrying Championship in Yorkshire," says Phil.
"The event involves running for a mile with a 50 kilogram bag of coal on your back from the pub to the village green. She had seen me running around preparing and so one day in the kitchen she picked up a sack of carrots and set off running around the dining room table.
"She just kept going and going, it was then that I realised how determined she was and she hasn't changed since."
Jodie went on to win the competition five times as well as excelling in other sports but it wasn't until last year that rugby became her main focus.
Thornhill athlete Jodie Ounsley selected for Team GB at Deaflympics 2017 https://t.co/6ADbhzcyZU— Huddersfield News (@Examiner) November 15, 2016
"I saw Sandal RUFC in the local paper and so went along when I was 15," says Jodie. "I remember my first game so well. The ball somehow popped to me and I just ran as fast as I could to score. From then I was hooked, it was a great feeling."
"Rugby has given me a set of friends for life"
Jodie went on to have an impressive first season, scoring in every game and was voted player of the year by the club and fellow teammates.
She was then selected for Yorkshire U15 followed by Yorkshire U18 and has been training with England Deaf.
"She really is an exceptional talent," says England Deaf head coach Sean Fletcher. "She is a pleasure to coach and is a true example that rugby is a sport for all."
The centre is now focused on achieving higher honours in the sport. "I think rugby has helped me. Communication hasn't been a problem because my teammates have always been great with me and make sure I get all the calls.
"The coaches have made me feel so welcome and I love playing as part of a team with great girls. The sport has definitely helped me with my confidence as I'm very shy. It has given me a set of friends for life."
While for many Jodie's achievements are particularly special considering the boundaries she has overcome, she doesn't see it that way.
"I don't really consider myself disabled. I've never known any different so I just get on with it. I've been very competitive all my life, what ever I'm doing. I don't think that will change."
From charging around the kitchen with carrots on her back to sprinting through defences, it looks like there is no stopping Jodie Ounsley.