The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Yorkshire schoolgirl Elsie meets the Countess of Wessex at UCI event

20 September 2019

Yorkshire schoolgirl Elsie Hughes has set her sights on one day becoming a cycling champion with the use of her prosthetic arm.

Elsie, 8, from Ripponden, Halifax, lost her left arm through congenital amputation caused by an amniotic band, but it hasn’t stopped her from already winning cycle events in the Yorkshire White Rose Cycling League and Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross League.

This week, the Ripponden Junior and Infants School pupil was presented to Sophie, Countess of Wessex, when she visited the fanzone at the UCI World Cycling Championships in Harrogate organised by Leeds hospitals charity Leeds Cares and British Cycling. 

She was among Leeds Children’s Hospital patients and staff who met the royal visitor, with Elsie telling the Countess about how she has overcome her disability to do cycle racing. 

“The children all enjoyed meeting the Countess,” said Elsie’s mum Emma. “She came across and spoke to Elsie and asked her about her prosthetic arm and how it is adapted for her off-road cycling, and then she watched the children going around a cycling course.”

Elsie has been able to pursue her love of cycling thanks to the team at Seacroft Hospital’s Specialist Rehabilitation Centre, particularly her prosthetist Asad Khan from Steeper Group who provide prosthetic services to the NHS. They have developed a special prosthetic racing arm for drop handlebar bikes to enable Elsie to move from hoods to drop handles on a road bike.

This was particularly useful when competing in cycling events which she has been doing from a young age – all against able-bodied children.

The team at Seacroft Hospital also created a separate prosthetic arm for her to use when she does “off road” or mountain bike riding.

Elsie is part of a cycling family where they all go out regularly cycling together – Elsie, mum Emma, father Paul, a coach with British Cycling, and 10-year-old brother George.

“Her prosthesis has made a massive difference because she has been able to ride her bike with as much competence and confidence as other children whether it’s track riding, roads, mountain biking or cyclo-cross,” said Emma.  “It has changed her life as far as cycling goes.”

In January, when Elsie will be nine, she can then start doing velodrome riding, providing her with yet more challenges.  

Elsie Hughes with Countess of Wessex and Andy Akers British Cycling credit Jude Palmer Love of Leeds Project v2Photo 1: Elsie (left) meeting the Countess of Wessex and Andy Akers, British Cycling coach