In an Instagram post on Wednesday, British Paralympic and World Championship gold medalist Alice Tai disclosed that she had her right leg amputated below the knee on January 13. After multiple reclassifications in recent seasons, Tai is likely to remain in Class S8, which is generally for athletes with certain degrees of limb amputation, coordination problems with lower limbs, and cerebral palsy.
Tai explains that through the years, the pain in her right foot has greatly increased. Tai was born with bilateral talipes, also known as clubfoot. Although both of her ankles are fused and arthritic, her right one has always been worse.
In the Instagram post, Tai reveals that the amputation has been on her mind since 2012, when she was only 13 years old. She writes:
I first asked my surgeons about the possibility of amputation in 2012 (13y/o). There were no more corrective surgeries that could give me significant mobility improvements whilst reducing pain. At the time it was agreed that amputation was an option, but that they’d rather perform it after I’d stopped growing. Since then it’s never really left the back of my mind and I was just waiting on a good time to ‘fit it in’. Last year I realised I was wasting time- if a better quality life was possible (crutch free, less likely to wreck me arms), what was I waiting for? The plan was brought back into action and, after consultations, scans and tests, a surgery date was proposed. Now I have no right leg below the knee. 🙂
Tai was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, five days after the amputation.
Her post displayed an optimistic tone, urging her followers not to “panic.” She also said that she is “healthy, happy and thriving so please don’t panic!”
In classifying disabilities for swimming, the S represents freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly. SM is for individual medley, and SB is for breaststroke. A lower number within a range generally represents a more severe disability and usually, though not always, means slower times on average. Athletes with physical disabilities are in classes S1-S10, athletes with visual impairments are in classes S11-S13, and athletes with intellectual disabilities are in class S14.
From 2017 to 2019, Tai’s classification was shifted from S10, to S9, to S8. Tai had to withdraw from the Tokyo Paralympics due to an elbow injury. Prior to the amputation, SwimSwam previously reported that Tai will have an opportunity to race at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Great Britain and at the next World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira, Portugal. She has not commented on her swimming plans since the amputation.
At the 2019 World Swimming Para Championships in London, Tai won seven gold medals: the S8 50, 100 and 400 freestyle, S8 100 backstroke, S8 100 butterfly, 34pt 4×100 medley relay and 34pt 4×100 freestyle relay.
At the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Tai took home gold in the S8 100m backstroke and bronze in the 34pt 4x100m Freestyle Relay.