Commonwealth Games: English swimmer wins gold just months after leg amputation

Alice Tai

English Para-swimmer Alice Tai won a remarkable gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, just months after having her right leg amputated. 

Tai emerged victorious in the S8 100m backstroke to claim her second Commonwealth Games gold at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham. 

The 23-year-old was born with bilateral talipes, otherwise known as ‘club feet’, which subsequently led to her undergoing several operations as a junior. 

In 2019, Tai won seven golds at the 2019 Para-swimming World Championships in London as well as four golds at the 2018 European Championships. 

She also won gold in the 4x100m medley (34pts) at Rio 2016 but was unable to defend her title because of an elbow injury. 

The English swimmer continued to struggle with her mobility and questioned whether she’d be able to compete in Birmingham this year. 

However, earlier this year Tai underwent surgery to have her leg amputated below the knee, forcing her to re-evaluate how to swim at the elite level. 

Tai admitted that she didn’t think she’d be able to race this season but thanked Team England for letting her compete. 

“I can’t believe I’m on Team England,” she said. “There was a time my coach and I were like ‘it’s not even worth trying, I’m not going to make it’. 

“I saw the New Zealand girl when I came off the turn and I was like ‘hell no, not in front of a home crowd!’. I just swam for my life and I can’t believe that just happened. I’m trying hard not to cry.”

Speaking to the BBC, the 23-year-old added that her best is still to come and that attention now turns to Paris 2024. 

“I’ve had so much to learn,” she said. “I had to strip all my strokes back to the basics to make sure I am even in the water, but my stroke efficiency is better than it was.

“My coach reckons I can go faster because of that, so once we work on the technical stuff, I think my times could be quicker than before.

“My start can be better, but we don’t know how I can balance best on the blocks and also my stroke into the turn keeps changing as I get fitter.

“I won relay gold in Rio which is awesome but I really want an individual title in Paris in 2024.”

Alice Tai

What else is happening at the Commonwealth Games? 

In other news, Guernsey bowler Lucy Beere has secured the island’s first Commonwealth 

Games medal since 1984 after qualifying for the final of the women’s singles. 

Beere will face Australia’s Ellen Ryan in the final later on Monday. 

Meanwhile, in weightlifting, England’s Jessica Gordon Brown claimed silver in the women’s 59kg. 

The 26-year-old lifted 197kg to finish second to Nigeria’s Rafiatu Folashade Lawal.

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