- A Paralympic weightlifter says he effectively self-isolated for three years before the Tokyo Games.
- Britain’s Ali Jawad, who was born with no legs below the knee, has Crohn’s disease.
- To qualify for the Olympics, he said, he felt a need to “try to control all the variables.”
A Paralympic weightlifter says he effectively self-isolated for three years to ensure he wouldn’t miss the Tokyo Games.
Great Britain’s Ali Jawad, who was born with no legs below the knee, has Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system, resulting in debilitating stomach cramps and extreme fatigue.
The 32-year-old said he chose to isolate, making his own food and not seeing friends and family, to manage his illness.
“This is probably the most invested cycle I’ve ever had in terms of using every ounce of physical, mental, and emotional energy just to even qualify,” Jawad told BBC Sport of his road to Tokyo.
“The last three or four years with my Crohn’s and my health, it’s been the hardest of my life.”
“Every day has been a struggle,” he added. “I’ve had to live a very strict way of life to try to help me pull this off. The only way to try to qualify was to put myself into a place where I could try to control all the variables.
“I’ve had to indirectly isolate for about three years.”
At the time he began isolating, Jawad was of course unaware that the COVID-19 pandemic would force much of the rest of the world to follow suit.
The pandemic delayed the Tokyo Games by a whole year, which the Brit says played to his advantage.
“I was never going to make it last year, and the extra year allowed me to attempt to get fitter,” he said.
Jawad made his Paralympic debut on home soil at London 2012, where he finished fourth in the -59kg category.
He won silver at the 2016 Rio Games and is now hoping he can again claim a medal in Tokyo.
“Getting here is probably the biggest achievement of my life,” he said. “A medal will never represent how much I’ve given the process. This time I’ve literally invested my soul into this cycle.
“What I want people to take away from my career isn’t the medals I’ve won, the records I’ve set or the celebrations I’ve done — I want them to take the fact that no matter what was put in front of me, I always found a way over the obstacles.
“I’ve probably had to do things that a lot of medics don’t really recommend, so I don’t advise Crohn’s and colitis sufferers what to do.”