Sandro Ballesteros wins Outstanding Achievement in Sport at Autism Hero awards

Date published: 16 November 2017

10-year-old Team Karting protégé Sandro Ballesteros has been awarded with an Outstanding Achievement in Sport award at the 2017 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Hero awards.

The youngster was presented with the award by Heather Small at the Radisson Blu Hotel in London on Saturday (11 November) having been nominated for the award by Team Karting, who he believes have ‘helped him just be himself’.

He said: “I need to say a big thanks to Anna Kennedy and her team for an awesome and inspirational event. I got to meet some amazingly talented people.

"Thanks to Team Karting for the nomination and Matty, Chris and the team for not only the help and support with my own racing, but also giving me the opportunities to help others, like Racing with Autism for the amazing 2017 UK tour, which I am proud to have played a part in.

“Also thank you to my own autism hero, Austin Riley, and his family for their incredible generosity, and to everyone who has ever helped me along my journey and shown their support and acceptance.”

Dad Tony said: “Sandro was so excited about the whole weekend, he was over the moon. Karting has really given him a confidence boost and Team Karting has done such a lot for him – they have worked wonders.”

Sandro began karting at the age of six after dad Tony bought him a go-kart for his birthday. His parents ‘saw a new calmness in him’ which they had not seen before, and has gone on to win several titles and podium positions.

Team Karting also enjoyed success on the day, as finalists for the Leaders in Business award.

New owner Matty Street, 21, was diagnosed at the age of 12 with dyslexia, dyspraxia and Asperger’s syndrome.

Earlier this year, Team Karting hosted Racing with Autism Day where 50 students from seven local schools – including Sandro – attended the track to meet Canadian karting champion, Austin Riley, 18, who also has autism.

Sandro was inspired to race by Austin, who was Highly Commended for the Outstanding Achievement in Sport award on the night.

Matty said: “To see how far Sandro has come in such a small amount of time is truly inspirational. For someone like Sandro who has autism, some social situations can be difficult, but he has a huge amount of sportsmanship.

“Thanks to the amazing support of his mum and dad, family and friends, I’m sure he will achieve great things. It’s something that he loves: he makes friends and meets new people.

“The award Sandro has won is totally deserved and I am so happy for him. I have no doubt it will be the first of many for this talented young racer.”

Sandro was also presented with an extra surprise from Austin and his family on the night.

Speaking via video, they said: “We try and do something nice for one of the kids that Austin’s inspired to start racing with autism as well. So this evening, we would like to present Sandro with a special gift we’ve been working on for the last little while, and our friend Matty from Team Karting is going to do that for us now.”

As the 10 nine-year-old tried his present on for size, he was met with cheers and applause from other guests.

Tony added: “He absolutely loves it. It has not left his side all day. He can't wait to wear it for the last round next weekend.”

Sandro will be wearing his new helmet for the first time on Sunday during his last race of the season in Lincolnshire, and will be looking for sponsors in the new year.

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