A strong-willed 11-year-old Barnstaple gymnast has fought back to gain a place with the GB squad after a major head injury.
Felicity Ayres from Tawstock has shown steely determination to succeed by recovering her form just 18 months after fracturing her skull and suffering a bleed on the brain.
She has been selected for the Great Britain Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Performance Pathway Squad for 2019 and currently trains 25 hours a week at Falcons Gymnastics Academy under her coach Kelly Park.
The Park School athlete, known as Fliss, has her sights on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris but suffered a huge setback when she fell from the bars during training in May 2017.
Thankfully doctors decided she did not need surgery but she spent a week at Bristol Children’s Hospital and then three months recovering with only light training.
Prior to her accident Fliss was in the Great Britain Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Home Nations Squad and she is delighted to be able to return to the GB training centre at Lilleshall where she had made friends.
Her mum Claire told the Gazette they had feared it would take her a year just to get back to where she was, but instead she is where she should be, despite the accident.
Claire said: “Three months out when you are doing it every day is a huge time period and so for the last 18 months she has been fighting really hard and is now back competing.
“I think it’s only her positive attitude that helped her recover – she has very strong mindset for someone so young and she never lost sight of her goal.”
Claire and husband Stuart support Fliss wholeheartedly in everything she does, alongside their other children Bella, nine and Jack, 13.
Fliss has a hectic three months ahead – her next competitive and top level grading is at Lilleshall next month.
After that she joins selected Falcons gymnasts for a competition in Florida, followed by the English championships in March – and if she has passed her grading, the British championships follow shortly after that.
Claire said Park School are very supportive and work with the Falcons to ensure Fliss can train a full day every Friday.
The family travels with Fliss all around the country and Claire and Stuart support her to the hilt, but currently pay for everything themselves.
If any North Devon companies would like to help a possible future local Olympian, with sponsorship or some other form of support, they can email Claire at email@example.com.