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Monday, 31 December, 2001, 00:02 GMT
NI pair earn honours
Janet Gray lost her sight at the age of 21
Janet Gray is the overall Irish water-skiing champion
Blind water skier Janet Gray and Northern Ireland Sports Council chairman Eric Saunders have both received New Year Honours.

The county Down woman, who won four gold medals at the World Disabled Water-Skiing Championships in Australia in March, is made an MBE.

Professor Saunders earns an OBE for his services to sports development in Northern Ireland.

The Ulsterwoman won the tricks, slalom, jumps and overall title at the championships in Melbourne.

In addition, she set two Irish records in Australia.

Previous award

The 38-year-old receives the honour for her services to disabled water skiing.

Despite her disability, Janet is overall Irish women's water-skiing champion.

Mrs Gray, who lost her sight when she was 21, was the 1997 winner of the Belfast Telegraph Disabled Sport's Personality of the Year Award.

She said that she hoped her latest award would encourage other disabled people to take up sport.

"It doesn't have to be at elite level," said Janet.

Janet Gray hopes her award can inspire other disabled people to take up sport
Janet Gray in action on the water

"It can be recreational or just for fun because you can get so much out of it between the social side and the fun side".

Northern Ireland Sports Council chairman Eric Saunders said he was "delighted" to have received his OBE.

"I accept the honour on behalf of all those I have worked with in sport," he added.

Professor Saunders recently retired from his University of Ulster where he held the chair in sport and physical education.

Under his direction, the University of Ulster was the first UK university to offer an honours degree in sports studies.

He previously lectured at Loughborough University and Leeds University and has been a visiting professor at several US universities.

Professor Saunders was appointed chairman of the Northern Ireland Sports Council in March 2000.

He is playing a major role in the setting up of a Northern Ireland Academy for elite sportspeople in the province which will be based at Jordanstown.

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Janet Gray
"I hope this will encourage other disabled people to take up sport"
New Year Honours

New Year Honours

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Honours in full

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