How Olympic champion Etienne Stott's career was saved

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Etienne Stott said there were times when it appeared repairing his shoulder was too difficult

Only 18 months ago, Etienne Stott feared his sporting career might be over.

The Bedfordshire canoeist suffered a serious shoulder injury during a training run with partner Tim Baillie, putting his hopes of participating in the London Olympics in jeopardy.

An operation offered the only hope of him competing again and after a long, wearying period of rehab he regained full fitness.

Now, following his gold medal success at London 2012, his path to recovery is being celebrated in a new exhibit at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

Few of the ecstatic Team GB supporters who witnessed Stott and Baillie's gold medal run in the C2 canoe double competition at the Lee Valley White Water Centre last month were aware of just what he had endured after suffering the injury in March last year.

"We crashed into an obstacle on the course and the whiplash, the force of that, went through my body and tore my shoulder out of its socket.

"It was painful and kind of sad because we'd made lots of plans for that year. We'd prepared our season plan, all our race plans, and instantly they just turned into dust and disappeared," he told BBC Look East.

Gold medallists Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie

Simply making the final was a major achievement as far as Stott was concerned and they were only sixth fastest in qualifying.

"Mad stuff happens on these crazy days," he said in the immediate aftermath of their victory over fellow Britons David Florence and Richard Hounslow.

"We did feel pressure, but we felt we needed to get the boat into the final and to do that was amazing, especially as just over a year ago I didn't know if I would be here because I had surgery on my shoulder."

The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College highlights the history of surgery over the past 300 years, and the Stott exhibit takes a look at the body of the elite athlete.

It features an animation of the procedures used by the surgeon, Professor Len Funk, to repair the 33-year-old's shoulder.

"I think operations are pretty revolting to the general public, they don't like to see a lot of blood, so with animation we can cut out all the gore and blood the public don't want to see and turn it into a more visually appealing animation," said medical illustrator Catherine Sulzmann, who works with Professor Funk's team.

As the operation progressed, it proved far from straightforward but to Stott's immense relief was a complete success.

"I'm not queasy but it was surreal knowing about all the little stitches and weird stuff, pecking at bits and pieces - it was strange but cool.

"There were several points when it looked like it was going to be too difficult a task," he added.

"Thankfully, the way it worked out is perfect, just a nice story all the way from there to the gold medal. Incredible."

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