Heather battles back from injury

Swimmer Heather Richardson, who overcame a broken leg to compete.

Swimmer Heather Richardson, who overcame a broken leg to compete.

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SUPER swimmer Heather Richardson scooped a clutch of medals at an international gala – despite still recovering from an operation to have a huge pin inserted into her leg.

The 17-year-old Hartlepool girl was left needing a pin and four screws inserted into her thigh bone which was snapped in a road smash in January.

Hartlepool Sixth Form College student Heather – who swims for Hartlepool Swimming Club - was forced to rest for six weeks but then shocked her family with her determination to get into the water just six weeks after the op.

And her loved ones have been left even more surprised after she was picked to represent the Catholic Schools of Great Britain as girl’s captain in Malta, and beat off stiff competition from swimmers from 12 other countries to win medals including:

l An individual bronze medal for the 200m backstroke,

l An overall team gold medal,

l And a silver medal for a team relay in the 100m front crawl.

Heather – who received a grant from Tees Valley Foundation to help fund the trip – also achieved her personal best in the 50m fly and 50m breast stroke.

Her proud mum, Michelle Richardson, a mobile hairdresser, of South Beach, Hartlepool, told the Hartlepool Mail: “We’re all really, really proud of her and I know Heather was really happy herself.

“She was a bit apprehensive because she didn’t know how she was going to do what with her accident. But she exceeded all her own expectations really.

“She’s just so dedicated and she hasn’t let this hold her back. We’re so proud.”

Heather was involved in the accident on the corner of Grange Road and Mulgrave Road, in the town centre of Hartlepool, which left the 16-year-old in agony and needing a four-hour operation at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, to insert the pin and screws into her leg.

Michelle feared her injuries were so bad that it could have marked the end of her swimming career.

The Hartlepool Sixth Form College A-level student was ordered to rest the limb, but she was so desperate to get back into the water that she pleaded with doctors to let her resume training just six weeks after her horrific injury.

The leg break is the latest injury that Heather has fought back from, after she broke her wrist when she slipped over at a gala in May last year, and injured it again in a fall on December 10.