Gemma Collis-McCann’s Road to Tokyo

Hi! My name's Gemma and I'm a British Wheelchair Fencer. I represented Great Britain at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympics and am the only British female to have ever won World Cup gold. 

Despite this I have been entirely self-funded since 2013 and am in desperate need of financial help to fund all of the international qualification events in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Qualification for 2020 starts later this year, and without help I simply can’t continue to fund a campaign. I already juggle a full time job with training and my family are financially committed to helping me, but I can’t continue without some additional help!

I’m currently competing on a shoestring budget against full-time funded fencers. I am the only competitor on the circuit who is unable to take a coach to competitions, which in a sport as tactical as fencing is a huge disadvantage! I’m very fortunate to have coaches at home who provide their time for free, but unfortunately I can’t currently afford to take a coach with me to competitions.

Please help me on my Road to Tokyo, anything you can give is much appreciated!!!

A little bit about me...

Growing up I was very athletic and participated in a variety of sports, competing at national level in Figure Skating and representing my county in Hockey and Athletics. By the age of fifteen, I was county triple jump champion and had high ambitions of competing for my country.

However, in 2008, those dreams were cruelly dashed when I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a progressive nervous system disease that affects the functioning of the nerves in my right leg. I was devastated and believed that my sporting career was over.

Determined to remain involved in sport, I began coaching, officiating and volunteering at sports events, discovering more about disability sport in the process. Realising that I was eligible, I began playing Wheelchair Basketball in 2010, competing for the Aces, Newcastle Eagles and Wales.

However, it was not until I started my Law degree at Durham University that I tried Wheelchair Fencing for the first time, after being spotted by the GB Head Coach, Laszlo Jakab. I immediately fell in love with the sport and fortunately those around me felt I had potential.

Three months later I represented Great Britain at my first international competition, the 2012 Malchow Wheelchair Fencing World Cup, and, just ten months after taking up the sport, competed at the London 2012 Paralympics. I competed as part of the Women's Team Epee, alongside Gabi Down and Justine Moore, finishing in 8th place.

In 2013 I struggled with serious illness and injury, spending months in hospital towards the end of the year after my stomach stopped functioning as it should. This culminated in me having a PEG feeding tube fitted to allow me to receive adequate fluid and nutrition. Despite some initial concerns over whether I would be able to safely continue competing, shortly after leaving hospital I dusted off my weapons and began fencing again.

Within three weeks I became British Champion and six months later after a hard uphill battle to get back into shape and regain my prior form, I won my first World Cup medal, narrowly losing 15-14 to the 7-time Paralympic Champion in the Semi-Final to claim Bronze.

I won another Bronze World Cup medal later that year, and then managed to perform well enough throughout the following 18 months to qualify as an individual for the Rio 2016 Paralympics, where I was knocked out in the quarter-final by the eventual gold medalist to finish 8th.

2017 was a tough year, as I made the difficult decision to have my right leg amputated below the knee in March after 9 years of extreme pain due to my condition. The road to recovery has been incredibly hard, and has tested my resilience and strength to its limit at times. However, just eight months later I managed to return to competition at the World Championships.

In the first event of 2018 I returned to form reaching the last 8 in my 2 main weapons, epee and foil, beating the World Champion in the process. I have also taken up a 3rd weapon, Sabre, and beat the World no.2 in my first competition!

Since then I have gone from strength to strength and in April of this year became the first British female to win a Wheelchair Fencing World Cup event when I beat the current World Champion and World No 1 to claim Epee Gold at the Montreal World Cup. I also picked up a Bronze in my second weapon, Foil.

I am now back in full training around my job as a sports journalist for the BBC, and am determined to qualify for and represent my country at a third Paralympic Games. No doubt there will be further challenges and hurdles to overcome, but I will succeed no matter what barriers are put in front of me.

The most pressing problem I now face is financial, which is why I am reaching out. I am currently one of the most successful non-funded GB athletes, but the struggle to finance my efforts is becoming critical. Myself, my family and some fantastic fundraising efforts from friends has kept me afloat for the last 5 years, but without a sponsor or some financial backing I may be forced to give up my dream and stop fencing.

Please help if you feel able - any contribution, no matter how small, will push me forward. I’m sure that between us we can do this, so please join team Gemma!

Career Highlights:

Current World No. 8 - Women's Epee

British Number One - Women's Epee, Foil & Sabre

GOLD - Montreal World Cup 2018, Women's Epee

BRONZE - Montreal World Cup 2018, Women's Foil

IPC Paralympic Athlete of the Month - April 2018

8th - Rio Paralympic Games, Women's Epee

3 x Winner of the Challenge des Joinvillais (2014, 2015, 2016)

BRONZE - Tournoi de Villemomble 2016, Women's Epee

BRONZE - Egar World Cup 20014, Women's Epee

BRONZE - Lonato World Cup 2014, Women's Epee

8th - London 2012 Paralympics, Women's Team Epee



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Gemma Collis-McCann 
Wardley, North West England, United Kingdom
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