Commonwealth Games gold for para-swimmer Alice Tai just months after leg amputation

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England para-swimmer Alice Tai won Commonwealth gold in Birmingham on Sunday – just months after her right leg was amputated in January.

The 23-year-old triumphed for England in the S8 100m backstroke at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

It was her second Commonwealth title after winning the Gold Coast four years ago but, she admitted, was far more unexpected.

“I didn’t think I could race this season,” Tai told BBC Sport.

“I’m so grateful that Team England let me come here and compete.”

Tai was born with bilateral clubfoot, which led to multiple surgeries as a teenager and subsequent increasing pain, forcing her to use crutches as a mobility aid.

However, the pressure on her arms meant she needed surgery on both elbows last year, which led to her having to Retired from the Paralympics in Tokyo.

While she was in rehabilitation and struggling with her mobility, she again asked about the possibility of having her right foot amputated.

“After the surgery, I couldn’t use crutches or drive a wheelchair myself, so using a power chair was my only option,” she told the BBC podcast Access All. on the eve of the games.

“I knew if I had the amputation I would have a better quality of life if things go well. It made sense and it was the right time.

“It took me a while to realize how dramatic an option was. I had thought about it so much in my own head for many years that it was almost normal.

“As a Paralympian, I see amputees with varying degrees of mobility all the time, but I know it was a big deal for everyone else.”

Tai won five gold medals in the individual and twice in the relay in London

Tai, who won seven gold medals at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, Underwent surgery in which her leg was amputated below the knee and had to relearn how to become an elite swimmer working with coach Dave Heathcock at Ealing Swimming Club.

She celebrated her international comeback at the Para Swimming World Championships in Madeira in June. win silver in the S8 100m freestyle to prepare her for the Commonwealths.

And roared at by the Birmingham crowd, she started slowly, trailing New Zealand Paralympic champion Tupou Neiufi early on before showing her strength.

“I had so much to learn,” she admitted. “I’ve had to reduce all my shots to the basics to make sure I’m consistent in the water, but my shot efficiency is better than before.

“My coach assumes that this will allow me to go faster, so if we work on the technical things, I think my times could be faster than before.

“My start can be better but we don’t know how best to balance on the blocks and my turn swing is always changing as I get fitter.

“I won relay gold in Rio, which is great, but I really want a singles title in Paris in 2024.”

Analysis – Five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds on BBC Sport

Alice said when she came to this race that she would drive smart, and she did.

She kept up with the New Zealander and went for it in the last 50m and just gave it her all

To get that gold medal after such a difficult year is just fabulous.

The backstroke is her best event. She has a beautiful shot and is naturally talented and although she won gold there is still room for improvement.

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