Top young swimmer battles severe arm injury - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Top young swimmer battles severe arm injury


MADISON, WI (WKOW) -- Ten year-old Gabriela Mays is one of the top swimmers in her age in the country. She's ranked fifth in the nation in four different events.

But in September 2011, Mays shattered her arm on the school playground, leaving her dreams of one day becoming an Olympic swimmer uncertain.

One of her friends dared her to do a standing back-flip off the swings. Mays' arm got caught in the chain and broke at the wrist. Then she fell to the ground and landed with her arm outstretched, breaking her humerus bone.

Doctors say one in three kids with this type of injury never fully recover, needing many surgeries, skin graphs and months of physical therapy just to re-learn how to do daily activities like brushing your teeth and writing.

Mays was back in the pool by December of that year.

"She was amazing," said Dr. Ken Noonan, Chief of Pediatric Orthopedics at American Family Children's Hospital, who fixed Mays' arm. "She way laying on the gurney going back to the operating room and she was like a rock, just steely determination."

Mays' has already broken four state records this year, and she was the overall high-point winner out of more than 500 swimmers at the national competition in Florida this month.

"If this hadn't have happened, I probably wouldn't be where I am and come back as strong as I was," said Mays. "When I started, I said there is nothing that is going to stop me from pursuing my dream."

Mays wants to be an Olympic swimmer and trains with former gold-medalist Beth Botsford.

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