A mother of a Special Olympics gold medallist talks about her pride after he wins Parliament’s ‘Most Inspirational Young Person’ award.

Daniel Bernard, 25, a Special Olympian from Garston, won the Parliamentary award in the House of Commons ceremony after he was put forward by Watford MP Richard Harrington.

In the March 2019 Special Olympics which took place in Abu Dhabi, Mr Bernard brought home a gold medal with Team GB in basketball.

The Special Olympian, who has learning difficulties and autism, has been hard at work training in basketball since joining Oakland’s College, St Albans, which helped him achieve winning the gold medal.

In preparation for the Special Olympics, Mr Bernard was coached by Simon Jackson-Turner, who is also the founder of the Inclusion Project, a St Albans-based learning difficulties initiative.

His mother, Jacki Bernard, said: “He always loved sports, he played it when he was young, but it was when Simon started training him at Oaklands College that he began training week after week.

“I knew he had a good eye for a while, he played football and everything, but I just hadn’t known he was particularly good at basketball.”

Watford Observer:

Daniel scoring a 3 pointer in Abu Dhabi World Games against Israel

When Mr Bernard was first told by his coach that he should try out for the Special Olympics, his mother was supportive in his training but admitted she did feel nerves. She said: “The autism and learning difficulties, they brought out the best in Daniel. Because of what he had he was supported and felt understood by the Special Olympics, and that brought it out to the world.

“I can’t emphasise enough how instrumental Simon has been in Daniel’s life. As his tutor at Oaklands College to being his basketball coach to setting up the Inclusion Project – all these things have given Daniel the confidence to compete, to travel and to talk in local schools to pass on and inspire others to overcome their difficulties and achieve.”

Mr Bernard has visited various schools to give talks about his training, which he believes he is helping to inspire the next generation of Special Olympics players.

The gold medallist said: “I am really proud to win the Inspire the House Award for being the most inspirational young person. It was an amazing experience to go to the Houses of Parliament to receive it.

“I am still playing basketball for Special Olympics and now I go to schools and tell the children all about my Gold medal.

“Even though I have learning difficulties, I just do my best and work with my team.”

Watford Observer:

Richard Harrington, Daniel and Simon Jackson-Turner

As the gold medallist continues to play basketball for the Special Olympics, he hopes to put himself forward for the upcoming 2023 Special Olympics which takes place in Berlin.

Mr Harrington who put forward Mr Bernard for the Parliamentary award, said: “Daniel is a true patriot who immediately makes an impression as a passionate, caring and kind young man with a keen enthusiasm to help others with learning difficulties and promote his sport which is why I thought he was perfect this award. I’m thrilled the judges thought so too!

He added: “As the MP for Watford for nearly 10 years, one of the key highlights for me has always been meeting so many people who do great work in our local community supporting disabled people to achieve their full potential.

“The success of local charities such as Para Dance and the multi-award-winning Watford Workshop, as well as young people such as Daniel, are proof that with dedication and perseverance, you can achieve anything that you set your mind to, irrespective of any obstacles you might face.”