A former national gymnast paralysed after freak accident learns to walk again

A former national gymnast who was paralysed after a freak vaulting accident is determined to learn to walk again.

Jennifer Smyth, 25, trained 20 hours a week and competed in national gymnastics competitions before a freak accident put a stop to it.

Jennifer, from Eglinton, County Londonderry, was practicing a new vaulting move in September of 2013 when she landed flat on her back.

She realised she couldn't move any part of her body - and was rushed to hospital for surgeries.

It was soon revealed she had fractured two vertebrae as she landed - rendering her quadriplegic and curtailing her gymnastics career.

She started off able to do little more than blink but she was determined to she would one day walk again - having physio and sessions in a bionic suit three times per week ever since the accident.

She managed to stand on her own for the first time in eight years in May this year - evidencing that her hard work is paying off.

But she dreams of one day walking unaided - remaining positive that one day it'll be possible.

Jennifer, who has a degree in product design, said: "Before my injury I was 16 and everything in my life revolved around gymnastics.

"It was a complete freak accident, I tried to stand up and I just couldn't move or feel anything.

"It took me a while to understand how severe my injury was - I kept asking my mum when I could go back to the gym and practice the vault again.

"I just saw it as another injury to overcome - but that's kind of how I still see it now. Whenever I want to do something I just have to adapt.

"Technically I am already walking again now, but it's mainly thanks to the bionic suit. My goal is to one day do that all by myself.

"But I can do more now than at the start, so I know my hard work is paying off.

"People ask how I'm never sad about my injury but I don't see it that way. I'm just determined to improve myself as much as I can."