A BECKENHAM swimmer who first took up the sport to gain confidence with her dyslexia has been chosen to represent Britain in the World Youth Championships in Mexico in July.

Leisje van der Velde was selected for the British squad following her performance in the recent British swimming championships in Sheffield.

The 16-year-old achieved a new county record time of 26.81s in the 50m freestyle and a personal best in the 100m with a time of 57.68s.

She swims at Beckenham Swimming Club and according to her coach Tony Beckley, her performance in the Sheffield qualifying event was remarkable.

He said: "To be selected for the British team is a testament to her talent, determination and sheer hard work.

"When she went into the finals, we knew she had to come in the first five to get a place in the British team.

"She not only achieved this, but also swam her best ever time and in the same championships broke a county record as well.

"I think it shows what potential she has and it has inspired a lot of the others who train alongside her."

Leisje first took up swimming after a specialist advised her parents she needed to find ways to boost her self esteem.

Her dyslexia had been causing problems with other pupils at her primary school and had led to a loss of confidence.

She settled on swimming after demonstrating a real love of water and natural talent for the sport.

Today she trains for up to 14 hours a week with Beckenham SC and represents her school, Combe Bank, where she was the first child ever to be awarded a sports scholarship.

Two years ago, she represented England at the WISE school swimming championships in Scotland.

The 22 swimmers selected for the British squad at the World Youth championships will be coached for the event by Dave Champion, who is confident Leisje and others will continue to show the impressive form already demonstrated in the qualifying swim.

He said: "We want them to be excited about what they're doing as the junior swimmers of today are the senior swimmers of the future.

"By offering this kind of international experience and exposing these young and talented athletes to competition at the highest level, we're preparing them for the London 2012 Olympics and beyond."

According to Liesje's mother, Nicky, it is sometimes hard to fit everything into her busy schedule, but the input of both her school and her swimming club has been terrific.

He said: "It can be a difficult balancing act, but we have all worked together to help her.

"She is so pleased at being given this opportunity to represent her country and we couldn't be prouder of what she's achieved."

The World Youth Championships will take place from July 8, but Leisje and the other swimmers will travel to Monterrey, in Mexico, on the July 3 to help prepare for the event.

Before then she will be trying out the new controversial Speedo swimsuits, which have just been approved by FINA, the governing body.