Robyn Love’s childhood was like something out of a movie – but it wasn’t the Hollywood fairytale she’d wanted as a child.

“I’ve always had proper Forrest Gump-style splints,” she recounts. “They were to try and straighten my legs and lengthen them.”

But like the fictional film hero, nothing would stop her from running. And the Ayr ace, 26, is ready to script a magical storybook tale of her own when she hits the court in Rio this week as part of the British wheelchair basketball team at the Paralympics – just four years after having a crack for the very first time.

Born with a rare condition called arthrogryposis, caused by the umbilical cord wrapping herself around her legs in the womb, Love’s disability didn’t stop her from being a sporting sponge.

Netball. Tennis. Basketball. Anything that was available.

Finishing up school, she’d had an operation that had been on the cards for most of her teens, a one-off crack at giving her legs a new look and easing the agonising back pains brought on by the way she walked.

“I had one surgery to lengthen and make my leg look straighter. They put a frame on to literally pull my bone apart. It is not the sexiest thing in the world.”

It put her back on her feet. Back into the gym and onto the pitch and ready to play.

“That was my escape. It wasn’t until I was about 20 that it started to go downhill. My back started to get really sore because I compensate a lot. My legs can’t carry quite as far because I’ve got a lot of muscle weakness. That’s when I started trying the wheelchair.”

It was hard to accept at first, Love admits. The surgery was never going to provide a miracle cure. But she’d hoped it could slow the decline.

Going into a chair felt almost like giving up the fight against the cruel hand dealt by Lady Luck. And then wondering what would come next.

“It is quite emotional. Sometimes I lie awake at night thinking what am I going to be like in five years? The answer is I don’t know. But it’s not going to stop me doing the stuff I do now.”

She wouldn’t have missed the last two years for the world, ever since GB team bosses begged her to quit her bar job in Edinburgh and have a crack at playing full-time at their HQ in Worcester in a bid to make the Paralympic team after a crash course at top Scots club Lothian Phoenix.

“When you go into an environment when everybody is ten times better than you are, it’s quite scary. I had potential. But when you play against people who are better, it makes you better, quicker.”

You need to be tough to survive wheelchair hoops. No prisoners taken. It’s not quite as full-on as murderball – or wheelchair rugby as it’s otherwise known – but there’s plenty of chair on chair action.

And Love said: “I love a bit of contact. I love a good bashing. It makes it a lot more fun for me. It brings out that fire and helps you focus more.”

Her chair is custom-built. When she decided to target the Games, the manufacturers quoted a whopping four grand at least to make one especially for her. ‘How on earth am I going to get that kind of money?’ she thought. A friend suggested an online appeal.

“I’m one of those people who hates asking for things. I have four sisters and we’ve all been quite independent. But I thought: ‘urgh, I’ll just do it.’ I came up with Love is in the Chair. I had to come up with something witty.

“I closed my eyes and clicked Start. Three weeks later, I had £3000. One guy who I didn’t know gave me a grand. I was so grateful for all the people who chipped in ten pounds. I have still have that same chair here. And I’ll be playing for everyone who helped out.”

And for her coaches and team-mates, of course, starting with Thursday’s opener against Canada – and then beyond.

“Fifth would be the highest we’ve ever achieved – we got seventh in London – I’d be so proud if we did that.”

This originally appeared in the Daily Record

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