Powerlifter with no legs aiming to make a big impact

Powerlifter with no legs aiming to make a big impact

Powerlifter with no legs aiming to make a big impact

First published in United Kingdom news

Power-packed Ali Jawad is funny, frank and fiercely determined.

He is also beautifully blunt and just a little bit flashy but he manages to pull it off with charm.

He is a Paralympic powerlifter and he has no legs.

"My parents did not really expect me to come out disabled. I just came out disabled. They were like 'wow shock!' said the powerlifter, originally from Beirut.

"Lebanon does not really accept disabled people. My life would have been hell there. They decided that for me to have a better life they would come to England.

"They came here when I was six months old."

Jawad, 23, who was born without legs and suffers from Crohn's disease, has won the British Championships every year since 2005 - apart from 2009, when he was unable to compete due to illness.

He is looking forward to August 31, when he is due to compete at the London 2012 Paralympics, stating in a tweet "the biggest day of my life is nearly here".

There has been a long period of training that has gone well and he is hoping it will be a different story than at his last Paralympics. It signalled dramatic weight change and ill-health.

He said: "The night before I competed in Beijing (2008) I got very sick. It turned out to be Crohn's disease.

"Within seven months I had lost about 12-15 kilos of body weight and because I was so sick I could not gain it back. I have had to stay at this body weight - unfortunately."

From about 64-67 kilos he went down to 56 and to feeling like he was fighting under par.

He said: "I am better now that I am getting used to it but at first it was really difficult just to get out of bed because I was in so much pain.

"It took me about three years just to really get in control of the Crohn's and all the flare-ups that I have.

"I had a flare-up this year and I managed to get through it.

"I think I am probably in the best shape now than I have been for the last three years - luckily."

Competing in the 60kg category at the national championships in June, he beat the British record of 172kg with his first lift.

Raising 173kg, he went on to lift 178kg and then 181kg, hauling more than three times his own body weight.

A gold at the Paralympics is not realistic as his Egyptian rivals are too strong but hopes of some success are undimmed.

"For silver and bronze - if I get 185 then that will probably be a medal and that is realistic," he said.

Most people would not be able to comprehend the intensity of the physical and mental drive he has mastered in order to compete at the Paralympics.

With the illness flare-ups and the weight loss it can be difficult for new spectators to the sport, who will pack out the London 2012 venues, to see how he can still be an elite athlete.

"A lot of doctors have said that," he notes.

"They have said that I should retire because it is hard work.

"I am quite crazy sometimes. I push my body to limits that I did not think I could do, so I thought I would give it everything that I have got and see where I would end up. Luckily I have ended up here."

He admits there is physical pain to push through.

He said: "Sometimes yes. I am in pain and I have to push through it.

"When I do not flare up, luckily it is just the fatigue that I have to concentrate on."

Perhaps the reason why he pushes himself so far is more understandable.

He said: "Probably because I do not want the disease to beat me.

"I think if I gave up I would regret not giving it a shot to see how I would go.

"Whatever happens in London I can say I have given it everything and do not have any regrets."

Paralympic powerlifting is a bench press competition. Athletes lie flat on a specially designed bench and then aim to lower a horizontally weighted bar from arms length to the chest and return it under control to the same starting position.

Jawad trains at the British Weightlifting High Performance Centre at Leeds Metropolitan University. Before becoming a member of the GB Powerlifting Team, he also competed in judo.

There has been a top nutritionist and a strong support network at British Weightlifting in his corner to help him through.

They also deserve credit because, he admits he is "not always a very easy person to work with".

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