Teen with leg almost twice as big as the other bidding to become para-athlete

A teen whose left leg is more than double the size of her right one due to a rare condition is aiming to become a top Paralympian.

Didi Okoh was 13 when she was diagnosed with lymphedema – a condition where excess fluid collects in tissues and causes swelling. She faced teasing and rude comments and as a young athlete was rejected by coaches who feared dealing with the risk of injury.

But now 19, the law and criminology student has set her sights set on making it to the Paralympics in the future. Didi said: “After I was diagnosed, I found it really hard to compete as I was so tired, and my swollen leg was so painful.

“Coaches also wouldn’t take me on because I was a higher injury risk. It was a difficult time and I had to stop competing in track events and switch to hammer throwing so there wasn’t as much impact on my legs.

“But athletics is my passion, and I didn’t want to let my condition control my life. Now I’m in the process of classifying to be a para-athlete – it’s been amazing to be back doing what I love.”

Of people’s reaction to her condition, Didi said: “People will often stop and stare. It used to bother me when I was younger, but now I think that people just need educating. Rather than getting annoyed, I explain to them.”

The fluid build-up in her legs can sometimes leak out of her skin from small cuts or bites. Didi, from Chelmsford, Essex, said: “It can last for days, so I’ve learnt to get used to it.”

She added: “It would be a dream come true to compete in the Paralympics, but more than anything, I want to use my story to help others who might be struggling.”

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