In May 2014 19-year-old gymnast, Natasha Coates, was diagnosed with a rare allergy to exercise but has fought against her condition to win five gold medals and two trophies, claiming the title of British Disability National Gymnastics Champion.
The condition, known as Spontaneous Urticaria and Spontaneous Angioedema leading to Idiopathic Anaphylaxis can be triggered by things such as exertion, sweat and heat. The reaction targets the body’s Mast Cells and causes blood vessels to leak and the body to release histamine, creating swelling, low blood pressure and difficulty in breathing which can prove fatal.
Tasha said: “In April  I suffered an anaphylactic reaction, which lead to a respiratory arrest.”
“After that I thought my time as a gymnast was over forever.”
Tasha’s reactions have led to over 30 hospital admissions within 12 months and also caused her to lose her hair.
“It was a really difficult time when my hair started falling out, I had 8 separate anaphylactic reactions in 2 weeks and before you knew it I was bald’
However, Tasha was determined not to give up on the sport she loved and had already dedicated ten years to, making the decision to work tirelessly to be able to compete in gymnastics again.
“I don’t believe a diagnosis defines you – your strength and commitment does”, she said.
Tasha decided to enter into disability gymnastics, allowing her to make adaptations so her health could remain a priority, refusing to let her condition stop her from competing.
“I tried staying in bed for a bit [after diagnosis] but I thought this isn’t working and got up and got on with my life.”
“I had 8 months off before getting back into the gym. It was strange going back at first, nothing felt right and things that used to seem simple to achieve suddenly became extremely difficult. When I exercise I now lose the feeling in my hands and legs, so I have had to adapt the way I perform as I can’t feel where my I place my hands and feet. This makes beam the most challenging for me as I don’t know exactly where my feet are when I land and just have to hope I have lined the skill up properly”
As well as having won numerous awards, Tasha also runs a blog, Allergic to Life, to help raise awareness for her condition and disability gymnastics.
“My life is completely different since diagnosis, and it can be really scary and difficult at times but I have a whole new appreciation for life. I train at The Wire Gymnastics club in Warrington alongside some extremely talented mainstream gymnasts and everyone at in the gym is really understanding. My coach Ema is fantastic in helping me to achieve my goals whilst ensuring my health stays the main priority. I train very differently to what I used to but I am still able to progress and enjoy the sport.”
My motto is “Be brave. Stay focused and work hard, let your talent speak for itself’ and certainly, Tasha is doing just that.