Geoff Rellis is another Irish gymnast who has made the move to the UK for better training facilities, others include top male gymnasts Luke Carson, Chris O’Connor and Kieran Behan. In August 2010, three time All Ireland Champion Rellis was training at Tolworth Gymnastics Club in the lead up to the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam when a huge halt was put on his rising career. While training on vault, something went drastically wrong with his technique during his handspring double front, when he hear a crack on landing and was suffering shooting pains down his back, he knew there was something wrong. The fall onto his head and neck caused a dislocation of the vertebrae (C5 from C6) and a C5 fracture just millimeters from his spinal chord. As we all know, injuries to the neck can be detrimental or even fatal, especially if the spinal cord is affected. An x-ray and CT scan revealed the bad news.
Fortunately Rellis left the hospital the next day on his feet, walking out. He had to have weekly follow up checks, one xray revealed that the dislocation had slipped further down, meaning that he required an operation. During the 4 hour operation, his throat was pushed aside and the two vertebrae were fused together from a bone graft from his hip. Despite the tough operation, Rellis was able to leave the hospital the next day with the Surgeons advice , which was not to return to gymnastics.
Geoff has always been training with the aim of competing in the Olympics since a young age so this was not easy advice to take in, like most gymnasts he was head strong and was used to using his muscles and working out everyday, sitting at home doing nothing was not an easy task for eight weeks. Once he returned to normal life after eight weeks and ditched his neck brace, he began weights and light cardio training, he refused to accept that he should never train again.
5 months following the accident, he was allowed to go back to training in February this year. After months of hard work and rehabilitation, Geoff is set to compete at the Northern Europeans in Sweden, which was his aim all along.
The Daily Mail carried this story on Rellis last week however, parts of it aren’t true. At the end the author talks about Ireland’s “Olympics Squad”, unfortunately there is no Olympic Squad. Kieran Behan is second reserve to compete in the Test Event in January. It will be 2016 before we might possibly have another gymnast in the Olympic Games since Barry McDonald in 1996.
Rellis is not the only Irish male gymnast to have suffered a terrible injury, double FIG medal winner Kieran Behan also suffered a tumour in his leg and a bad head injury. Both gymnasts are back and in fighting form. Geoffs courage is admirable, wishing him the best of luck at Northern Europeans as part of the Gymnastics Ireland delegation. He will compete alongside the following Irish gymnasts:
- Emma Lunn
- Ciara Melia
- Sorcha White Barrett
- Sarah Buckley
- Beth Gilmor
- Anthony O’Donnell
- Geoff Rellis
- Chris O’Connor
- Adam Dalton
- Daniel Fox
Teams from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Fare Islands will compete in Uppsala, November 11th – 13th.