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Staffordshire Disabled Gymnast Looks To Retain Schools Title

February 13, 2023

    A disabled gymnast is hoping to qualify for a chance to retain her national school championship title.

    Hannah Louise, 18, who has hypermobile joints caused by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, took up disability acrobatic gymnastics four years ago.

    She is competing in a regional qualifier in Fenton Manor on Saturday, and says the sport provides her with an escape.

    “It’s just a way of getting everything out,” said the Uttoxeter resident.

    Health challenges forced her to stop practising artistic gymnastics a decade ago.

    “I struggled with joint pain since I was two years old, so I couldn’t do everything that my friends were doing,” she said.

    “I was nine, nearly 10 when I got my diagnosis. It was hard because I’ve always been involved in sport.”

    Having Ehlers-Danlos means her joints dislocate very easily, she suffers with chronic pain and fatigue, and uses a wheelchair because she cannot walk long distances.

    Persuading mum

    She was inspired to join Stafford’s Style 90 Gymnastics club four years ago after seeing her older brother compete.

    “It took me about a year of persuading my mum to let me do it because she was a bit cautious,” she said. “That was so amazing – to be able to find myself again.”

    She partners with able-bodied gymnasts to deliver routines, wearing supports and a neck-brace to protect her joints.

    “I’ll be sat in my wheelchair and they’ll do a handstand on my knees, me holding them so they don’t fall, obviously, or standing on my knees in my wheelchair,” she said.

    Her coach, Lily Gibbons, said she was “unbelievably proud” of the athlete’s achievements.

    “She has so many things she has to overcome,” she said. “Over the last 12 months she’s really suffered with her health. But whenever she’s here she always works hard.

    “She amazes us sometimes with the things she’s able to do.”

    The gymnast believes those with disabilities should have the opportunity to compete at international level, like able-bodied peers.

    “The representation for disabled athletes isn’t there,” she said. “The sport I do, disability acrobatic gymnastics, you can only go to national level.

    “I’m currently British champion, but that’s the highest I can get.”

    She also hopes to qualify to compete again at the British national NDP finals in May, and says the support of mum Andrea makes everything possible.

    “My mum is my biggest advocate and I’m so grateful for her,” she said.

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