Scottish judo player who was told he may never walk wins Silver at Special Olympics

A Scottish judo player has won a silver medal at the Special Olympics, defying childhood predictions that he may never walk unaided.

Lovett had a stroke while in the womb and is registered blind
Lovett had a stroke while in the womb and is registered blind

Harrison Lovett, 20, from Glasgow, took second place in the male division 11 category in Abu Dhabi, gaining his first World Games medal on his debut appearance.

But it took defiance of professional medical opinion to make that dream come true, a dream that Lovett hopes will be chased by others too in the wake of his success.

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Lovett had a stroke while in the womb and is registered blind. He suffered from periventricular leukomalacia, and has had to contend with hypermobility, Joubert syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Wheelchair-bound for years, he was told by his doctor when he was three that “I basically wasn’t going to be able to walk, talk or sit up”.

Just a year later the future World Games medallist was confounding expectations, however, silencing the doctor by standing up and telling him “Look!”

But that determined attitude did not make the task at hand straightforward, with Lovett saying he faced “loads of different challenges”.

“Basically I wasn’t involved in school half the time, and I had to fight to get into sport.”

In 2010 he found his calling during a taster judo class at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh, immediately taking to the sport.

And while he got “smashed about a bit” and ended up with “broken noses, broken fingers, dislocated toes”, the silver medal appears to have made it all worthwhile.

Jonny Imrie is one of those who has coached him to this moment, a man the judo medallist described as “the big boss”.

Imrie hopes Lovett’s success will have a lasting impact on how children with disabilities are treated in the early stages of childhood.

“To write people like Harrison off from competing in sport is outrageous at such an early age,” he told the Press Association.

“Yeah, make us aware of the challenges, but the challenges are what we put the strategy in place to overcome.

“If a story like Harrison’s doesn’t change people’s opinions of what can be achieved with some patience, planning and pure determination, I’d be surprised.

“I just hope Harrison can get out and about in the community and tell people his story.”

That role as an ambassador for exceeding expectations is something Lovett said he will embrace, and to those who don’t believe him, the proof is there for all to see on the international stage.

“I want to drag all the people that say I’m not able to do it in here and say ‘Well, watch’,” he said.

Great Britain has sent their biggest delegation yet to the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.

The 128-strong team were led into the Zayed Sports City Stadium last week by Lord Coe.

Over 7,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities from a record 200 countries are competing at the Games, in sports from bowling to badminton.

A letter from Prince Harry was revealed to the athletes shortly before the Games began.

“While you compete over the next two weeks, know that you are an inspiration to us all, especially your friends and families,” the Duke of Sussex wrote.

The opening ceremony saw performances from stars such as Avril Lavigne, while this is the first time the event has been held in the Middle East.

The Great Britain team is competing in 17 of the 24 sports on offer at the Games.