Gemma is today living in London, but was diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia at three years old and underwent a succession of childhood operations to try to position her hips correctly.
It was during her recovery, when walking was slow and painful, that she discovered a love of the water.
Hydrotherapy was used as part of her rehabilitation and at this point her love for swimming started and a star was born.
A love affair with the pool meant Gemma went onto achieve swimming success nationally and internationally, at junior and senior levels. Dominating disability events in breaststroke, freestyle and fly at the UK School Games for three years running, Gemma added to her trophy cabinet with a bronze in SM10 200 IM at the IPC European Championships 2011 – her first major international competition, and medal.
Gemma competed at the 2012 British Gas Championships in London, smashing her previous personal best by nearly four seconds to secure the SM10 200m IM Paralympic Qualification Time and British Record. She won bronze at the 2012 British Champs and smashed the British S10 record for silver at the British International Champs a month later.
Gemma retired from professional swimming in 2015, following her appearance at the IPC European Championships in 2014, and now lives in London and is studying towards a PhD as well as supporting DDH UK.
Gemma said, “‘I am honoured to be the first Spica Warrior Patron, and having first hand experience of the long-term effects of a late DDH diagnosis, there is no doubt in my mind that their work is vitally needed. With increased knowledge and improved access to information and resources, we hope to see more early diagnoses being made and families being fully supported on what can be an emotionally draining journey. This is an exciting time for the DDH community and whilst my condition has led me to have a fantastic swimming career, I often wonder what pain-free path I might have taken had my DDH been picked up sooner.”
Natalie Trice, founder of DDH commented, “We are thrilled that Gemma has joined us and love how she is as passionate as we are about shining the spotlight on this condition. We are speaking to an increasing number of parents who didn’t know about DDH until their child was diagnosed and this simply is no longer acceptable. We are working with medical professionals and organisations to discuss what strategies can be put into place so this life changing condition is on the radar. We will be working with Gemma on a number of new campaigns and are positive that we can facilitate change and offer much-needed guidance and support for the future.”
Watch this space for a regular blog post from Gemma as well as Facebook Live sessions and fundraising activities.