A teenage gymnast has bounced back from a serious ankle injury and major surgery to win a world championship gold medal.
Ashleigh Long, 16, of Sharlston in West Yorkshire, won gold at the Trampoline, Tumbling & Double Mini Trampoline World and World Age Group Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, a year after badly damaging ligaments in her ankle and undergoing surgery at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
Her family say they owe much of her recovery and success just one year after the accident to Kurt Haendlmayer, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and foot and ankle specialist at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, and his team.
Ashleigh’s mother, Andrea Long, said: "We cannot thank Mr Haendlmayer and his team enough as they treated Ashleigh's injury quickly and helped to get her to where she is now."
The Crofton Academy pupil, who trains with the Wakefield Gym Club tumblers, has been doing gymnastics since she was six and has competed all over the world.
She was among club members representing Great Britain in the Gymnastics World Cup in Sofia, Bulgaria in October 2012 when, during a performance before the panel of judges, she landed awkwardly, tearing all the ligaments on the outer part of her ankle.
She was rushed to hospital in the city and her foot was put in plaster before she was flown home. When she returned she was referred to Mr Haendlmayer. He examined her foot and viewed footage of the accident to find out exactly what had happened and how it had affected her foot. She was later sent for an MRI scan.
Mr Haendlmayer said: "Her ankle was badly swollen and it was clear from the scan she had ruptured the ligaments in her ankle."
The family feared that the recovery time would seriously set back Ashleigh’s chances of returning to the level she had reached before the accident. Patients who have this type of injury would often have a longer-term course of treatment including months of physiotherapy. However, Mrs Long said: “Ashleigh wanted to carry on with her training and get back to full fitness.”
A week later Dr Haendlmayer carried out the operation on her ankle. He said: “I recommended she have surgery to mendher ankle ligaments to give her stability back which helps her be able to train again, sooner.”
Mrs Long said: "Kurt explained everything to Ashleigh, including exactly what was going to happen and how she was going to be treated. He made sure she received the best care as quickly as possible so that she could train again."
After the operation, Ashleigh began intensive physiotherapy and made rapid improvements which meant she was able to begin training again in January 2013. She explained: “The pain settled early on in my recovery but for me it was my confidence I needed to work on the most.”
Such was her progress that she was selected for the World Championships and, this time, she won a gold medal.
Andrea said: "Mr Haendlmayer is a big part of what Ashleigh has achieved and we cannot thank him enough. The care he gave before, during and after her operation was amazing."
Mr Haendlmayer: "It was fantastic to hear from Ashleigh’s success after such a severe, potentially career ending injury. I am very happy that I could play a part in it."
Zoe Styles, Head Coach at Wakefield Gym Club, said: "We are very proud of Ashleigh. To have come back from her injury and come first in the championships is fantastic."
Ashleigh is now back to full fitness and has had no long-term effects following the operation. She is now training for the European Championships in Portugal later this year.