‘Chronic pain condition wrecked my dreams of Olympic triple jump but now I’m a Paralympic fencer at a home Games’

Wheelchair fencer Gemma Collis from Aston Clinton
Wheelchair fencer Gemma Collis from Aston Clinton
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When a chronic pain condition wrecked Gemma Collis’ dreams of being an Olympic triple jumper, few would have blamed her for being bitter.

But two years on from being diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, the determined Aston Clinton teen has made it into the Team GB wheelchair fencing squad for the Paralympics.

What makes the 19 year old’s story all the more remarkable is the fact she has been wheelchair fencing for less than a year.

Gemma, pictured in her new Team GB funded high performance wheelchair, has been making her final preparations with the rest of the women’s epee team before the sport gets under way at the ExCel Centre on September 4.

The chronic pain condition, which has affected her legs, put paid to any hopes Gemma had of triple jumping. But she has channelled her sporting ability in a different discipline and still has to pinch herself that she has been chosen for Team GB at a home Games.

“I couldn’t quite believe it when I got the news that I’d been selected for the squad,” Gemma said.

“When I started fencing in November 2011, I never would’ve thought I’d be in this position now. I can’t stop smiling.

“I had to read the email several times before I believed it. It had become a secret dream as selection got closer and my results continued to improve, but I’d never really expected to be selected.

“It was a shock, but I was elated to see my name included in the Women’s Epee Team.

“Competing in the Paralympics is a dream in itself, but getting the opportunity to do so in front of a home crowd should make it all the more special.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I just can’t wait. I feel incredibly proud to have been selected to represent Great Britain. It’s an honour.

“I expect the atmosphere will be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I think it’ll be electric. It’s a home Games, so the majority of the crowd is likely to be British. I think it’ll be uplifting to know that the majority of the crowd is rooting for you and cheering you on.”

Follow Gemma’s progress at the Games in Herald sport and online as well as the webiste www.beazleybritishfencing.com