News Item

Durham University student secures Team GB place ahead of London 2012 Paralympic Games

21 May 2012

Durham University student and wheelchair fencer, Gemma Collis, has been selected to represent Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Durham University student and wheelchair fencer Gemma Collis

The 19-year-old, who combines her sporting commitments with a degree in law, will make her Paralympic debut at the Games as part of the Wheelchair Fencing Female Epee Team.

Having only taken up wheelchair fencing when she joined the University in October 2011, Collis has since represented Great Britain in the Malchow Wheelchair Fencing World Cup.

"Shortly after starting my law degree at Durham University last year, whilst training for basketball, I was approached by Professor Laszlo Jakab, the GB Wheelchair Fencing Head Coach and University Head Coach, who asked me if I'd like to try wheelchair fencing. I tried it and really enjoyed it," she said.

In 2008, Collis got a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which is a progressive nervous system disease that affects the functioning of the nerves in her right leg, causing altered sensation and extreme pain. Ever since then, she has been on crutches or used a wheelchair.

The London 2012 performer, added: "I feel incredibly proud to have been selected to represent Great Britain at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. 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. It's pretty surreal really. When I started fencing six months ago, I never would've thought I'd be in this position now. I can't stop smiling."

As well as her academic and sporting loyalties, Collis is also heavily involved with the arts and volunteering at the University.

Collis trains at the University's newly opened world-class standard fencing specific facility, which is the only one in the country. It has four competition and four practice dedicated fencing pistes and wheelchair fencing frames, with coaching led by Professor Laszlo Jakab.

Professor Laszlo Jakab, who is the Durham University Fencing Coach and GB Paralympic Fencing Coach, said: "Personally, I am very proud of Gemma's progress. It is not common for someone to get selected for the Paralympics after such a short sport history in fencing. She deserves this because her progress is rapid and promising, she is a very disciplined and committed player, and it is a real pleasure working with her.

"Gemma has great potential and I am sure she will make her country proud in years to come."

Gemma Collis will also be an Olympic Torchbearer on 9 July carrying the flame through Luton.

By Stuart Appleby

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