Commonwealth Games: Jones marks return from her nightmare with 'gold' medal

When the total of English medals earned at these Commonwealth Games is finally settled, one at least should carry an asterisk denoting special merit.

When Emma Jones said the bronze she earned in last night's individual cycling pursuit felt like a gold, she had compelling reasons to do so. The 27-year-old Cheshire rider took to the podium just over five months after a collision with a car had left her with serious spinal injuries while she was cycling to the Manchester velodrome on 10 October for a training session.

"The impact broke one of my vertebrae and it shunted back into my spinal column and it was only one and a half millimetres away from my spinal chord," she said. "At the time I was told by a passer-by to lie down and I didn't really want to but I couldn't feel my legs. But she saved my career because I was told at the hospital that if I had sat up the vertebra would have gone backwards into the spinal chord and severed it and I would have been paralysed."

Jones, who had got married just a month earlier, had to spend a week immobilised in the Hope Hospital, for whom she has subsequently set up her own fund-raising charity.

"I was having nightmares that I was being hit by a car and waking up," she recalled. "They had to medicate me heavily at night to stop me having nightmares because as I was waking I was jolting myself and moving my spine.

"I was in such pain that I told my mum I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up again, but she wouldn't have any of it. She kept on encouraging me to do more things and get back to cycling." Jones spent another fortnight in hospital and only got back on to a normal bike on 11 January.

Since she has been in the Athletes' Village she has been in regular contact with the Australian cyclist Alexis Rhodes, who almost died in Germany seven months ago after another collision involving a car which killed her team-mate Amy Gillett, the world junior champion. Coincidentally, Jones was in a group of British cyclists who arrived on the scene immediately afterwards.

"My team were out there training," Jones said. "I saw Alexis on the ground and she has been a great inspiration to me to get back on the bike after my accident."

Rhodes, who suffered injuries to her lungs, spine and thorax, made an astonishing recovery to take part in yesterday's individual pursuit but failed to get through qualifying. "We are good friends," Jones added. "Her accident was more serious than mine, but it's been a relief for both of us to talk."