Less than seven months after getting her right foot amputated and having to learn to walk again, British Paralympic swimmer Alice Tai won gold at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on Sunday.
Tai was born with bilateral talipes and had spent the last 10 years considering surgery. The pain in her foot had been worsening, so she finally went through with it on Jan. 13. In an interview with BBC, she said she wasn't even sure if she would be able to partake in competitive swimming this season.
However, she persevered, clocking a 1:13:64 at the women's 100m backstroke S8 final for Team England.
📅 January 2022: @alice__tai has her right leg amputated below the knee due to increased pain in her foot.— Birmingham 2022 (@birminghamcg22) July 31, 2022
📅 July 2022: Alice Tai wins #CommonwealthGames gold in the S8 100m Backstroke at Sandwell!
An incredible story from a phenomenal athlete.#B2022 pic.twitter.com/RKmZaW9nn9
"I knew if I had the amputation I would have a better quality of life, if it went well. It made sense and it was the right time," she told the BBC's Access All podcast on the eve of the Games. "It took me a while to realize how dramatic an option it was. I had mulled it over so much in my own head for many years so it was almost normal."
That was her second Commonwealth title, as she also won one in Gold Coast four years ago. This one, however, was a little bit more special.
It's been a challenging year for Tai. She got gold at the Rio 2016 and London 2019 Paralympics, but was forced to withdraw from the Games in Tokyo due to an elbow injury. The timing of that was complicated because she had just reclassified from the S8 to the S9 category, which meant she was competing against athletes will lower levels of impairment.
Tai told BBC that she thinks her times will be quicker than before because her swimming stroke efficiency is better now. Her focus now is on the next Paralympic Games. She won relay gold in Rio, but is setting bigger goals for herself and going for an individual title in Paris in 2024.