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  1. ITV Report

Ready for Rio: Megan Giglia

In the run-up to the Rio Paralympic Games, ITV News speaks to four Paralympics GB athletes aiming for gold.

In the second of our Ready for Rio series, we profile para-cyclist Megan Giglia.

Megan Giglia is a two-time UCI para-cycling world champion.

Since being accepted onto the Paralympic Development Programme in May 2014, her ascent has been swift.

Just two years since impressing experts at a talent identification event, winning her a place on the scheme, Giglia hopes to build on her successes at Rio, and show she is truly a force to be reckoned with.

  • Age: 31
  • Sport: Para-cycling
  • Condition: Brain injury from a stroke
  • Trains: Manchester
  • Games history: Yet to compete
  • Rank: World number one (C3)
Megan Giglia's brain injury makes simple tasks such as merely raising a knee more difficult than usual. Credit: ITV News

Born in 1985, Megan Giglia is a former school sports coach and a regional officer for Badminton England.

She has always loved sport, but her life changed at the age of 27, when she experienced a brain haemorrhage caused by a severe stroke.

The incident meant Giglia needed brain surgery, and she lost a lot of her memory and full function of the right side of her body.

"I was an emotional wreck to be fair, I had lost everything," she said. "I needed that belief in myself again and I had to dig really deep to find it."

The athlete used cycling as a way to regain her mobility. Techniques such as tying her hand and foot to the bike helped her regain her balance.

Megan Giglia uses a special splint to keep her leg in place while she is riding her bicycle. Credit: ITV News

Giglia now has to think about all her body movements, even merely lifting a knee - something most people take for granted.

This drains the athlete of energy more quickly, and leaves her more susceptible to seizures.

"By the end of a block of training, I've potentially had three or four seizures," she said.

"I can't speak properly, I'm just zoned out. I'm just sleeping all the time - I'm just tired."

The athlete experiences a number of other day-to-day health issues as a result of her stroke, such as trouble swallowing and epilepsy.

Giglia also uses a splint to support her leg from "flopping around" while she is on her bicycle.

Megan Giglia's coach John Hewitt is optimistic about how she will perform at Rio 2016. Credit: ITV News

The athlete's epilepsy diagnosis placed a huge strain on her relationship with her then partner Cherrie, and the pair eventually parted ways.

Despite the trauma brought on by her stroke, Giglia has refused to let any obstacles stand in her way.

In 2015, Giglia finished fourth in two events at her first track world championships in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.

This was followed by another fourth place position at Giglia's first road world championships in Switzerland.

And in November 2015, the athlete's hard work and training began to really pay off when she beat the reigning world champion, Denise Schindler, in the C3 individual pursuit at the Manchester Para-cycling International.

I didn't believe I would get to Rio, but I applied because I had a breakdown in my relationship at the time, and I need something to keep me focused so that I kept improving rather than going backwards.

I know how easy it is to get sucked in. You do have down days even without a major event in your life - it was just a matter of keeping myself going.

– Megan Giglia

Giglia now has high hopes for Rio 2016, and expects nothing less than four gold medals for every event she is competing in.

Her coach John Hewitt is similarly optimistic about how the athlete will perform.

"I am quite confident - she has been progressing quite a lot," he said. "She's very determined and never gives up."