Name: Gwenllian Evans (Gwen)
Which Team: Team England ParaCheer
Disability: I had a haemorrhagic stroke in 2014, when I was 21, due to a rare congenital disorder which gives me an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in my brain that are very fragile and prone to rupture. This happened to me just after a cheer training session, and gave me a brain haemorrhage! The stroke led to cognitive and learning difficulties, which makes it very hard to keep up with the pace on non-disabled teams. My physical and mental concentration is limited to about 20 minutes, after which my brain will “reset” and I space out for a bit – sometimes even in the middle of a stunt. In addition, the thing in my brain that caused me to have a stroke is still there and I am at risk of having another stroke if I invert, raise the pressure in my neck/brain too much, have too much repeated impact and move my neck too fast. This means no inverted stunts, no baskets, no tumbles, no jumps and limited dance movement for me!
Career Goal: I’m a medical student at King’s College London. I’m about to qualify as a doctor in July 2017, and since I was 6 I have always wanted to specialise as a neurosurgeon. Now that I have become a neurosurgical patient myself, I can’t NOT be a neurosurgeon!
Share something that makes you happy: Cheer, baking, my friends and family!
Share something most people don’t know about you: I have really long arms! Even though I’m shorter than my bases I can reach high enough to be their backspot.
How many years’ cheer/dance experience do you have? I started at University in 2010.
Which cheer/dance teams are you part of or have you been part of in the past? Kings College London (KCL) Lions (University team) from 2010 – 2014 and London City Stars from 2013 until mid-2014. My stroke happened 6 months into being on this team.
Why did you want to join Team England ParaCheer/Pom?
I was devastated when my cheer career was ended by something I did not decide on. When my surgeons gave me the go ahead to start light exercise again, I knew I would never be able to cheer properly ever again – so I started coaching instead. But it really, really hurt to be watching cheer and not doing cheer! I was so inspired by the great things TEPC was doing for other people in a similar situation to me and thought it would be an amazing thing to be a part of. I did get offered a place on Team England ParaCheer last year, but I couldn’t commit due to university exams.
What’s your favourite part of being on Team England ParaCheer/Pom? Seeing the joy on all of the athletes’ faces when we achieve skills and stunts we never thought we would have the opportunity to even try.
Are there any stunt/technique adaptations you make which you find especially interesting? Any adaptations that have been made for the wheelchair users – especially full ups!
What have you learnt while being a part of this team? How much potential every single one of us has – and there are ways to unlock them all by being creative, no matter what the disability or not.
What are you most excited to experience at Worlds 2017? The feeling of walking onto the Worlds mat and seeing Worlds from the other side of the banner and curtains!