INSPIRING young skater Juliana Sweeney-Baird is losing her sight – but she refuses to let it stop her from achieving her goals.

The Bearsden teenager is currently number one in the world rankings and a British junior champion in inclusive skating, competing across the world.

“Just because you have a visual impairment, it doesn’t mean you can’t do what you love,” she says. 

Glasgow Times:

Juliana is one of five fantastic finalists in the 2020 Glasgow Times Young Scotswoman of the Year award, in association with St Enoch Centre. Over the next few days, we will be profiling each of the contenders for the title, which will be decided by public vote and revealed on April 29, along with the winner of our Scotswoman of the Year, in a livestreamed event on social media.

“It’s a great honour especially because the other finalists are so talented and have achieved so much,” she says.

“Even just to be a finalist in this competition is an amazing thing.”
Juliana, who is 18, fell in love with ice skating when she was seven years old.

“My mum took me to see a figure skating competition in Italy, and I sat and watched the whole thing, I loved it,” she explains. “Realising I was interested, she signed me up to a Learn to Skate course and that was how it all began.”

Glasgow Times:

When she was in primary four, however, Juliana noticed she was struggling to move around easily at school.

“I was tripping over things all the time,” she recalls. “It just kept happening, so we went to the doctor.”

Juliana was diagnosed with Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, a rare genetic condition which means her sight will continue to deteriorate.

“At the moment I have central vision, but I know that I will gradually lose that too,” she explains. “I have to watch my sugar levels too, as if they drop too far I will become seriously ill. It is hard sometimes but I stay positive by concentrating on the goals I want to achieve.”

Glasgow Times:

In unfamiliar ice rinks, or when other skaters are on the ice, Juliana’s mum Margarita, who set up the charity Inclusive Skating, helps guide her. Juliana is an ambassador for the charity, helping to promote the sport for young people with physical and learning disabilities. 

“To other young people diagnosed with a visual impairment or a disability I would just say – still dream,” says Juliana. “It doesn’t mean your life is over, in fact, it is just the beginning.”

Julia is shortlisted for 2020 Young SWOTY alongside Amanda Amaeshi, Roseanna Campbell, Katie Pake and Lusia Steele. To find out more about all the finalists and to register your vote visit www.dartmouthfinancial.com/young-swoty-2020.

Voting will close at 5pm on Friday, April 2.