Wales

A-level results: Paralympic ambitions for injured horse-riding teen

Leonie Saffy Image copyright Leonie Saffy
Image caption The fall has not dented Leonie's confidence or desire to get back on a horse

An "incredibly inspiring" student who completed her A-levels just months after a serious horse-riding accident hopes to compete at the Paralympics.

Leonie Saffy, 18, from Ruabon, Wrexham, shattered her pelvis and hip and fractured a thigh bone in the fall.

The Coleg Cambria student was left in a wheelchair but continued her studies online in lockdown, and now hopes to study biochemistry at Keele University.

Leonie has been awarded a place on the British dressage development programme.

"The accident hasn't put me off riding, I've injured myself plenty of times over the years," said the former Ysgol Rhiwabon pupil, who also suffers with multiple pterygium syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

"We still don't really know what happened during my fall - there was some bucking and a rear," she said.

"I lost my reins and came off and, luckily, I missed the fence, as that could have made the fall much worse.

"I couldn't move my legs, so mum called the ambulance."

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Leonie shattered her pelvis and hip and fractured a thigh bone in the fall

But the fall has not dented her confidence or desire to get back on a horse.

"Horse riding is a high-risk sport and it's something you have to be willing to risk if you want to participate in, especially at a higher level," Leonie explained.

"I have 20 screws and rods in my spine from a previous surgery due to multiple pterygium syndrome, so the worry was that I had snapped a spinal rod."

But a scan at Wrexham Maelor Hospital revealed her pelvis had taken the brunt of the fall rather than her back, and she was allowed home in a wheelchair after a week.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Leonie has been awarded a place on the British dressage development programme

On Thursday Leonie received her A-level results.

She got an A in biology, a B in English language and literature, a C in chemistry, and an A in her Welsh baccalaureate.

She now hopes to combine a degree in biochemistry with her place on the Podium Potential P3 dressage squad for Team GB, and pursue her dream of participating at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

Leonie, who has been through a long period of recuperation from her injuries, said she was committed to achieving medals on the international stage while pursuing a career as a biochemist.

Simon Woodward, head of sixth form at Coleg Cambria Yale, believes "inspiring" Leonie has a very bright future ahead of her.

"Leonie has worked incredibly hard and took part in the Biology Olympiad this year, which shows you how much effort she's put in," he said.

"Even after the horse-riding accident she was determined to carry on and has been incredibly inspiring.

"We wish her luck and have no doubt she will be a big success as part of Team GB and in her future career."

Image copyright Leonie Saffy
Image caption She wants to pursue her dream of participating at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris

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