British Paralympic swimming champion Alice Tai has had her right leg amputated below the knee due to increased pain in her foot.
The 22-year-old, who was born with bilateral talipes – also known as clubfoot – had been considering surgery for the past 10 years.
Tai claimed gold and bronze medals on her Paralympic debut at Rio in 2016 but missed last year's rearranged Tokyo Games because of an elbow injury.
"Firstly I’d just like to say that I am healthy, happy and thriving so please don’t panic," she posted in a lengthy statement on Twitter.
"Over the last few years, the pain in my right foot has worsened. Both of my ankles are fused and arthritic but my right one has always been more troublesome and (comedically) non-functional.
"The medical team who’ve been involved since the surgery are incredibly optimistic about my recovery. As am I!
"I know a lot of people probably didn’t see this coming; very few people knew. I wanted to make sure the surgery was successful before sharing."
Hi guys!— Alice Tai MBE (@alice__tai) January 19, 2022
Just a little update 🥰 pic.twitter.com/mLQKplJAfm
Tai spent five days in hospital before being discharged on Wednesday morning.
After returning from the Rio Games, she truly announced herself on the world stage in 2019 when she won an incredible seven gold medals at the IPC World Para-swimming Championships in London.
"I first asked my surgeons about the possibility of amputation in 2012," continued her statement.
"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 my arms), what was I waiting for?
"The plan was brought back into action and, after consultations, scans and test, a surgery date was proposed. Now I have no right leg below the knee."