SPECIAL Olympics athlete Keira Byland paid tribute to former Bolton Mayoress Gay Wharton after she had nominated her for a British Empire Medal in this years' Queen's Birthday Honours.

The inspirational sports star has received a BEM for her work in inspiring children both through talks and delivering coaching sessions.

Mrs Wharton, who was killed by a dangerous driver in November last year, worked closely with Keira and supported her work in the community.

The 23-year-old several gold medals at Special Olympics for cycling, most recently three gold medals at the World Games in Abu Dhabi.

A qualified cycling coach and swimming teaching, she helps inspire children at schools in Bolton to try sport and has made a large impact on special athletes in particular.

Recently she has been coaching children at nurseries and primary schools how to use balance bikes.

Keira, who lives in Bromley Cross and studies at Bolton College, said: "It was really exciting when I found out about it and I am so happy.

"I recently learned that it was Gay who had nominated me for the honour, she was quite a close friend of ours.

"I had no idea about the award until the email came, it's fantastic that I've got it but I wish I was able to share the exciting news with her.

"She always took the time to help me with anything I needed, she was both an inspiration to me and someone who supported me.

"If I was ever giving talks or presentations and needed advice I would turn to her."

Keira sits on the board of trustees at the Special Olympics and participates in conferences across the world, which she balances alongside studying for her B Tech in business.

She added: "What I would say to people is never give up. When things are hard you need that resilience to keep going.

"Even if you don't succeed straight away, talk to people and always try and stay positive.

"I wish I could thank Gay for supporting me, and I also want to thank everybody for believing me, and Bolton College for being so flexible."