Few athletes have been through as much as Gemma Collis, and fewer still have faced such insurmountable odds, only to emerge victorious. As she began her life she brimmed with enormous athletic potential, competing in national competitions for figure skating, as well as becoming the double county triple jump champion, all at the age of 15. In addition, she played hockey at the county level and was the 100 meter champion in her district.
Then disaster struck. Following an awkward landing after a jump, she experienced a life-changing injury that would leave her unable to walk. After a series of treatments and doctor visits, she was diagnosed with an extremely rare illness called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. People suffering from this condition experience extreme levels of pain, and even the slightest touch to Gemma’s ankle resulted in excruciating agony.
Coming to terms with the fact that her dreams of being a star athlete were effectively over was hard to take for Gemma. After seemingly endless treatments and trying different methods, nothing seemed to work, and the intense pain remained an ever-present reminder that her life had changed forever. For most people, this would destroy all of their hope, and this almost happened to Gemma.
Eventually, Gemma decided that she would become involved in sports in any way she could, even if her injury stopped her from reaching her initial goals. She first began volunteering and coaching with athletic programs in her community. It was then that she discovered the realm of disabled sports. Furthermore, she found out that there was even a person involved in professional disabled basketball that suffered from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. This was all the inspiration Gemma needed to get involved in disabled sports herself.
It didn’t take long before Gemma was representing Wales on their national wheelchair basketball team. But that wasn’t enough for Gemma. Just as she had mastered several sports before her injury, she battled to take on as many sports as possible. She soon moved to the exciting realms of wheelchair fencing. Almost immediately, Gemma earned a place on the Great Britain wheelchair fencing team. It soon became evident that Gemma would be even more successful in the world of fencing than she had become on the basketball court, and she was picked to compete in the special Olympics.
Unbelievably, disaster struck once again for Gemma in 2013. She suffered a back injury which caused her to black out and required her to receive nutrients intravenously through a gastro tube. After a brief period of rest, Gemma defied all expectations and starting competing sooner than anyone would have thought possible, and in 2014 won a medal at the fencing world cup. Most recently, she finished a respectable 5th in the Olympic games.
Success just keeps on piling in for Gemma Collis, as she recently received the BBC sportsperson of the year award. The future holds many exciting possibilities for this young athlete. At 23, she has accomplished so much considering the hurdles she has had to overcome, and people should expect to hear much more of her in the coming years.
That’s how you #RISEandSHINE