Swimmer Ellie Robinson has received words of comfort from fellow Perthes disease sufferer Alfie Hewett in the ParalympicsGB camp after emotionally suggesting she is set to retire.
Rio gold medallist Robinson bravely battled to compete in Tokyo before effectively calling time on her fledgling pool career on the occasion of her 20th birthday due to a deterioration in her hip condition.
Her announcement – made in the aftermath of finishing fifth in the S6 50m butterfly event she won in Brazil – prompted an outpouring of encouraging words, with sporting greats Boris Becker and Gary Lineker among the well-wishers.
🗣 “This is a story of triumph, this is NOT a story of defeat!”
— C4 Paralympics (@C4Paralympics) August 30, 2021
Wheelchair tennis star Hewett has a similar affliction and, after seeing footage of his team-mate’s moving interview, has been on hand to offer in-person support.
“We bumped into each other in the accommodation about a week ago and she mentioned it (Perthes) – that was probably the introduction, to be honest,” said two-time silver medallist Hewett, who is still bidding for glory in singles and doubles events in Japan.
“Obviously we can relate a lot to our disabilities and what we’ve been through.
“I actually spoke to her when she got back: she was quite emotional, she was quite tearful.
“I had seen what she had said so we just had a few words there.
“All I can say is well done to her because it sounds like she’s gone through absolute hell this last year or so and people telling her to quit.”
Strong day on court with a QF win 💪🏼
— Alfie Hewett (@alfiehewett6) September 1, 2021
Perthes disease is a rare childhood condition which occurs when the blood supply to the head of the femur is temporarily disrupted.
Robinson, whose Twitter bio reads ‘Girl with the huge coat in Rio’ after a swaggering walk on at the last Games, insisted she did not want to be a “story of sorrow and heartbreak” and expects to undergo a future hip replacement.
Hewett has his own troubles with the impairment as, unless he receives a reprieve, he will soon become ineligible to play tennis professionally because his disability is not deemed severe enough under fresh criteria.
“For her to come here and battle through the pain and keep going, massive congrats to her,” he added. “As she said, she can leave on her own terms.”