HARD of hearing athletics star Lauren Peffers' ambitions for Olympic and Commonwealth gold have received a boost after she secured a £3000 sponsorship deal.
The Lothians teenager - five times Scottish 1500m champion in her age group and the current European deaf 800m and 1500m record holder - will use the cash to help her break into the Scotland under-19 team.
Miss Peffers, who has moderate hearing loss in both ears, wears hearing aids when running in mainstream races but cannot hear the starting gun. She takes her cue from the other runners, which leaves her at a slight disadvantage.
Despite this, she is already classed as one of Scotland's best middle distance runners and is among the young medal hopefuls who train with track legend Liz McColgan (below).
The 17-year-old, of Dunbar, East Lothian, said: "This sponsorship means a lot to me because it will pay for my travelling to events across the world.
"It will all help, especially as the London Olympics and the Commonwealth Games are now my two main goals."
Miss Peffers has had a hearing impairment since birth but it was not discovered until she took a routine hearing test at the age of four.
Her talent was spotted at a cross-country event for East Lothian primary schools and she was invited to join the Dunbar Running Club.
She has since had success at events all over the world, including the European Deaf Cross Country Championships in Portugal, where she finished ahead of more experienced athletes over a tough 6k course.
She also took home gold and silver medals after competing in the Deaflympics in Melbourne last year.
In mainstream racing, she was the Scottish 1500m champion for five years in a row at the under-13, under-15 and under-17 levels.
This season has been hampered by a foot injury, but with her last physiotherapy session in sight, she has set her sights on the East and West District Championship at Kelvinhall in the new year.
Proud mum Anne Peffers said her daughter is working to build up her strength for the London Olympics in 2012 and the Commonwealth Games two years later - possibly to be held in Glasgow.
She said: "Her times are coming down and down all the time and that's always her aim.
"Hopefully, she will make the national team first (at under-19 level) and then we will see how we go from there."
She added: "At the moment, her forte is the 800m and 1500m races but as she gets older she hopes to build up her strength for the 3000m and 10,000m.
"Eventually, she's hoping to do running full time, which would be great, but at the moment we just need to try to get her name known."
Her 3000 sponsorship deal has come from the House of Hearing shop at Stafford Street in Edinburgh.
The shop provides hearing aids for the teenager.
Managing director Stephen Fairfield said: "We are delighted to be able to support Lauren and look forward to seeing her win gold at both the Deaflympics 2009 and the London Olympics 2012."