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Defeat fuelled success

Wales lost. But defeat at the hands of the French was eventually to provide a triumphant moment for schoolboy Hugh Battrick.

The rugby-mad teenager from Porthcawl won through to the finals of The TES's Write Away competition with his passionate account of being the Welsh team mascot for last year's fixture against France at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff.

He is laid back about his literary success and not planning a career in writing. His nine-year-old sister Rachel was more excited than he was about yesterday's awards ceremony in London - particularly the chance to meet Children's Laureate Jacqueline Wilson, one of the judges in the autobiographical competition.

Hugh, however, is used to media attention. In August 2002, he suffered a brain haemorrhage that damaged an eye and left one side of his face paralysed.

His courage in coping with on-going treatment and a series of corrective operations won him the South Wales Echo's champion child of courage award in 2003.

And, as a result of being the Welsh rugby team's match mascot last year, he raised pound;2,500 for the Noah's Ark appeal for Cardiff's new children's hospital.

The Year 9 pupil from Porthcawl comprehensive, south Wales, said: "We had to choose something to write about that happened to us. Being Welsh mascot was pretty cool, so I thought why not? It's like presenting something on stage in a school assembly, only a bit bigger. It flowed because there was so much to talk about."

A big star of his winning entry is Shanklin the goat, his fellow mascot on the day, who features at the start and the end of the piece.

Rosalie Maddy, Hugh's English teacher - who also taught his dad Mike - is pleased he picked up on her suggestion of finding a link between the beginning and end of a story. "He's a delightful boy to teach. Throughout all of his treatment he has not complained once and takes everything in his stride. Even now he plays in the school rugby team. I am delighted that he won this award."

Proud mum Di-anne is the first to admit that sport is her son's first passion. She says: "He's very laid back about it all. But if he enjoys a book he will read it and re-read it."

The four young writers who won the TES Write Away 2005 competition are all pupils from independent schools, which dominated this year's event. Briony Millman, Elena Lawson, Timothy Hu and Rachel Culloty took the top prizes.

They were among the 20 finalists from 10,000 entries.

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