From Wheelchair to World Champ

Sometimes in life you meet someone with such passion and determination that it inevitably ignites something within you, Maisie Thompson is one of those people.

Maisie grew up involved in sports – primarily soccer and basketball – and was always very active. Born with a profound sense of adventure, she decided to embark on a journey to Africa during college. She spent her 21st birthday rafting on the Nile River, when tragedy struck. Her raft capsized, and she was thrown into the rapids. “I was stuck under the water, seconds from drowning, and hit my head on a rock.” Maisie went to the hospital but was far from family, “After that accident I wasn’t quite right, I kept getting sick and didn’t know anyone there.” After her accident she went home to seek further medical care.

For years to follow Maisie hopped from doctor to doctor desperately seeking answers as to why she still was struggling with her health. She experienced dizzy spells, weight loss, adrenaline spikes, and a complete lack of balance. “I couldn’t stand up for too long or I would pass out.”

In 2009, Maisie went to Mayo Clinic where she was diagnosed with an autonomic nervous system disorder, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a result of her concussion.

Unable to stand up for prolonged periods of time, she relied on a wheelchair, “I would be exhausted brushing my own teeth.” After a year and a half in the wheelchair she started to notice slow and steady improvements.

“Just getting up to shut off my bedroom light would be a small victory.” Maisie slowly but surely collected these small victories and clung, with hope, to each and every one. She recalled the day she was able to jog a quarter mile on the treadmill, “It landed me in bed for four days, but it was a concrete goal, one I could obtain.”

In 2013 Maisie moved to Atlanta, GA, where she hoped to begin to live a normal life. She began to miss being physically active and involved in sports.

“I liked watching UFC, but I knew I could not afford another concussion, and could not be on my feet for a long time.” That is when Maisie discovered jiu-jitsu, and realized it was something she could do from the ground. Jiu-jitsu began to increase her stamina and improve her muscle mass and circulation. She focused on rolling for about sixty seconds then sitting out, and each day she would push herself a little further.

Maisie commented that she was largely inspired by role models within her gym, as well as her professor, “An intuitive and dialed in coach was so important in the beginning. And I’m certain my story would be different without this coach and these teammates.”  Her efforts were met with endless encouragement and support from her teammates. Her coach pushed her a bit further each time, and was very involved with her training. She decided to try out competing and fell in love with it. Maisie has gone on to place at the IBJJF World Masters, IBJJF International Open tournaments, Fuji State Championship, as well as NAGA and Newbreed events.

Maisie’s health is still something she has to manage closely. She has achieved a balance and training schedule which works for her and still prioritizes her health. “I still sometimes get frustrated with my body for not keeping up with my head and my goals, but simply showing up, and competing is something to be proud of.”

Maisie is very passionate about competing, and is eager to entertain the idea of sponsors so that she can pursue competition even further. She is also passionate about teaching children jiu-jitsu and having an influence on the next generation.

What struck me the most about my conversation with Maisie wasn’t just her incredible health and jiu-jitsu journey, it was how unassuming she was.

“Everyone has their story, some people step on those mats with crippling social anxiety, for some it’s their only escape, everyone has a story to tell and something they’re carrying with them, this is just mine.”



Victoria D’Anthony

Guest writer

Victoria is a blue belt and has been training jiu-jitsu for almost four years. She is a student, and enjoys traveling, writing and training whenever she can. When she’s not on the mats or at the beach Victoria enjoys spending time with close friends and is always looking for exciting new experiences.






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