St Andreans cheer for US​ paralympian

Victoria Arlen a major medal hope at the Paralympics
Victoria Arlen a major medal hope at the Paralympics
Share this article

​When American teenage swimmer Victoria Arlen begins her quest for gold at the forthcoming Paralympics in London she will be guaranteed lots of support from in and around St Andrews.

A leading medal hope following major successes at the recent Paralympics trials in North Dakota, when she smashed two world records previously held by Britain’s Ellie Simmonds, the 17-year-old from New Hampshire has several relatives in the Citizen circulation area.

The young swimmer was left paralysed in 2006 by a virus which affected her spinal cord and also left her in a vegetative state for two years.

She only returned to the pool last year and recently secured a place on the 34-strong US swimming team for London.

The brave youngster is the grand-daughter of Catherine and Bill Oscroft, of St Andrews and Exeter, New Hampshire.

Catherine Lumsden was born in St Andrews and, after leaving Madras College, was employed by Boots the Chemist.

In the 1950s she met Bill Oscroft, who was a fighter pilot in 43 Squadron at RAF Leuchars and they were eventually married in St Andrews.

Victoria’s mother, Jacqueline, was born in Lincolnshire and the Oscrofts emigrated to the USA in 1966.

Great aunt, June Aziz, lives in St Andrews, while great uncle, Archie Lumsden, resides a few miles away in Blebo Craigs.

June told the Citizen: ”Jacqueline has a great love of St Andrews and went to school here for a while before they emigrated.

‘‘She also spent a large part of a gap year here while at university, working in one of the golf shops. She and Victoria will hopefully be coming to St Andrews for a short holiday after the games.

“Victoria’s journey has been one of highs and lows, of goods news and bad news. Her own strength and determination, and the incredible support from her parents and family, makes her recovery to this point nothing short of a miracle.

“We are so proud of her and will be there to see and support her in achieving her dream in swimming in the Paralympics.”

It was in 2006, at the age of 11 that Victoria arose from bed and found that her legs would not support her.

Within weeks she became paralysed from the waist down.

Eventually diagnosised as suffering from Transverse Myelitis, a neurological disorder of the spine almost always irreversible, complications ensued and she fell into a vegetative state and was given little chance for survival. The best prognosis was her remaining in that state for the rest of her life.

However, two years later in what is described as a miracle, Victoria came out of the vegetative state.

She had to relearn to speak and move. But now, thanks to huge support from her family, friends and professionals she will take another positive move forward at the Paralympics in an already amazing journey.