Fencer Gemma Collis in whirlwind rise for 2012 Paralympics

Durham University student Gemma Collis had never held a fencing sword when the city of London was awarded the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games back in 2005.

In fact, not even this time last year had the 19-year-old started out on her journey.

However when the Category A Epee fencers begin their competition on Wednesday, 5 September, Collis will be there, less than a year since she first gave the sport a try.

"I can't believe I've been selected when I only started at the beginning of September," Collis told BBC Look North.

"It's surreal, it's always been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics, and when I got my condition the Paralympics, and I don't think I can quite believe it.

"I've been smiling ever since and I just want to make the most of every day up to the games and make sure I do the best I can when I get there."

Collis' rise from Wales under-25 wheelchair basketball player to Paralympic athlete has handed her an opportunity she thought had passed, when she was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy in 2008.

Prior to the disease taking fold, the Aylesbury-born athlete was involved in the triple jump, figure skating and hockey, with sport a big part of her daily life.

"When I got my condition, I was devastated because I didn't think I would be able to do sport again," she added.

"When I found out that I could, it just filled the hole that had been left.

"I've been so sporty, I've done the sports at school, done all the school teams and then went onto represent at county level in a few different sports.

"It doesn't matter what sport I'm doing as long as I'm doing sport and in a way, it sounds weird to anyone else, but it's given me as many opportunities as it took away.

"In that respect, it's just something I've had to deal with."

Collis and her team-mates Justine Moore and Gabby Down are preparing to link up in the Women's Team Epee event, held at the ExCel Arena this summer.

Individually Collis will take her place at the summer's games fresh from the World Championships in Lonato, Italy, where she beat world number two Yulia Efimova in her pool stage.

"We [Great Britain] went to Italy in the World Cup - got our best score - and we're hoping to convert that into wins, although we just want to fence our best and see how high we can come," she added.

"Team GB have got some really stiff opposition, so we'll probably face one of the top nations in the first match like Hong Kong.

"But if we can get toward the top half of the bottom half, that would be achieveable."

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