A KEEN rugby player forced to give up sport and miss large chunks of schooling after a rare bacterial infection attacked his ankle joints is walking tall after scoring top A-level grades.

Despite taking time out for extensive physiotherapy and reconstructive surgery, Ripon Grammar School student Lachlan Moon was awarded A* and three As in maths, chemistry, economics, further maths.

The 18-year-old, from Sicklinghall, who had to wear a metal frame on his left leg for four months following surgery, will now study MORSE (maths, operational research, statistics and economics) at the University of Warwick.

He explained how the rare bacterial infection attacked his ankles and chest before his GCSE exams, eventually destroying the joint in his left ankle.

When he started sixth form, Lachlan’s ankles were in pain and he was often tired, finding it difficult to walk around school: “I played rugby a lot before my illness so it was challenging for me to be able to watch and speak about rugby, knowing I would not be playing it at school again.”

Monthly physiotherapy sessions meant he had to miss lessons, and he had reconstructive surgery after his AS exams.

He walked with the aid of crutches as his ankle was fixed in position with the aid of an Ilizarov frame.

“The frame was a huge challenge as it caused me a lot of pain and made it very difficult to get to sleep. After it was taken off, walking was awkward. I had a plastic boot on my leg and still needed to use crutches for another two-and-a-half months.

“When I stopped wearing the boot walking was still a struggle as I hadn’t worn a proper shoe for six months.”

Lachlan, who enjoyed being involved in House drama productions during his time in RGS sixth form, added: “Over time my ankle has got better, and I am able to do more on it. It still remains quite stiff and is sometimes painful, but it has improved a lot and hopefully will continue to do so.

“I am so relieved to have got into the university of my choice.”

Fellow student, world championship cyclist Abi Smith is now considering focusing on her professional sporting career full-time after being awarded A* grades in geography and PE and an A in biology.

She is thinking of deferring her offer of a place to study biological sciences, along with a coveted sports scholarship, at Loughborough University in order to concentrate on her sport.

“I would love to go to university at some point, but I don't think it matters if it takes me ten years or more if I am going to try and have a career in cycling first.”

Abi, currently recovering after suffering concussion in a crash during training camp, explained: “I think I am going to try to become a full-time cyclist while I have the opportunity. I may as well give it a shot now. How many people have the chance to be a professional athlete?”

The teenager, from outside Helmsley, described her cycling as being like a ‘fourth A-level’ while she juggled her sport with her studies during her two years as a sixth form boarding student in Ripon.

‘When I first joined sixth form at RGS, I honestly didn't think I'd be going from a 16-year-old half-average triathlete schoolgirl to an elite GB cyclist by the end of it,” says Abi.

“I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have had the opportunities to excel both academically and in sport over this time - but I don't think I could cope with another year of juggling it all.”