Gabi going for glory at games

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A MOTHER who made a heart-breaking decision to have her daughter’s leg amputated is to receive the ultimate reward – watching the teenager compete for Team GB in the Paralympic Games.

Jo Down and her husband Terry were given two choices after daughter Gabi was born 14 years ago with a severely malformed right leg.

“She had skeletal dysplasia, which means bones formed where they shouldn’t and didn’t grow where they should,” said Jo.

As Gabi neared the age of three, doctors broached the subject of amputating the leg below the knee.

“We had to decide if we wanted to leave the leg in place, which would mean Gabi would never be able to use it to walk on it, or whether to have it amputated, which would enable her to have a prosthetic limb,” said Jo,.

“We chose the amputation, It was horrible decision to make for a three-year-old girl but we wanted to give her every chance of having a normal, active life.”

But even Jo and Terry didn’t not realise quite how active Gabi would grow up to be.

Within weeks the tot was walking with her false limb, blithely telling people: “My leg was no good so they threw it in the bin.”

By the time Gabi started Oakgrove school, she had discovered a passion for sport.

But it was only two and a half years ago, when she was trying out wheelchair fencing at a disabled sports camp, that her Paralympic potential became apparent.

“I loved fencing right from the start,” said Gabi.

“It is such an individual sport and I like the way you have to think so tactically.”

Soon the Monkston Park youngster was training up to 30 hours a week and catching up with schoolwork in her spare time. Her inspiration was the city’s Olympic champion long jumper Greg Rutherford, a fellow member of Marshall Milton Keynes Athletic Club.

Jo said: “Greg is Gabi’s friend and has been fantastic to her. He has given her so much encouragement.”

This week Gabi left for the Olympic Village in readiness for yesterday’s opening ceremony and her team epee fencing competition on Friday next week.

Greg’s final words of advice were: “Just enjoy it and do your best.”

Gabi added: “I plan to do just that. I’m enjoying it already. It’s brilliant here. And I will certainly do my best. Who knows what will happen?”

> Follow our Paralympic stars in action at www.miltonkeynes.co.uk