ATH­LETE BEATS HEALTH PROB­LEMS TO REP­RE­SENT UK Pow­er­lifter rais­ing the bar for dis­abled sport

Sunday Sun - - News - By Han­nah Gra­ham Reporter han­nah.gra­ham@trin­i­tymir­

A DIS­ABLED ath­lete whose life was blighted by ill­ness and shy­ness has shared how dis­cov­er­ing a sport he loves has helped him flour­ish.

David Martin, 25, who has autism and epilepsy, joined his lo­cal Spe­cial Olympics club just three years ago, sim­ply hop­ing to make friends.

But he dis­cov­ered an un­ex­pected tal­ent for the power-lift­ing events, the bench press and dead­lift, which will now see him rep­re­sent­ing his coun­try.

Now he’s been cho­sen to com­pete for Great Bri­tain at the Com­mon­wealth Pow­er­lift­ing Fed­er­a­tion Cham­pi­onships in Potchef­stroom, South Africa, and has been tak­ing part in events this week.

David re­cently re­turned from the Spe­cial Olympics GB Na­tional Games in Sh­effield, where he won a gold medal in the bench press and dead­lift com­bi­na­tion, achiev­ing a per­sonal best in both lifts.

He said: “Sh­effield was a re­ally good com­pe­ti­tion and the days flew by. It was chal­leng­ing and I learned a lot. My favourite part was the com­pet­ing.

“I’m very ex­cited about South Africa. It will be my big­gest com­pe­ti­tion.”

Join­ing the club has wrought huge change on David’s life.

His mum An­gela Martin said: “David didn’t used to par­tic­i­pate in any sports and needed phys­io­ther­apy to loosen up his leg mus­cles. He also needed con­stant an­tibi­otics to fight off chest in­fec­tions and had a very lim­ited diet.

“Now he no longer has in­put from a physio, eats a much bet­ter range of foods and no longer needs the an­tibi­otics.

“He was also un­der the care of a po­di­a­trist for his feet, which rolled in over. How­ever within 12 months of train­ing he was dis­charged from their care.

“I can­not thank Spe­cial Olympics enough for the trans­for­ma­tion they have al­lowed my son to make since be­gin­ning with them three years ago.”

Proud An­gela, who will be join­ing him in South Africa, added: “I’ve sup­ported David at every com­pe­ti­tion he has taken part in and can­not be­gin to ex­plain the pride it gives me to see my son achieve the things he does.

“He’s gone from a shy, im­ma­ture young boy, who suf­fered many bouts of pneu­mo­nia re­quir­ing hos­pi­tal stays, to a ma­ture young man who ex­udes con­fi­dence.”

Ac­cord­ing to coach Fred McKen­zie, the change has been more than just phys­i­cal as David has dis­cov­ered lead­er­ship skills he never knew he had.

Fred, from New­big­gin-by-theSea, said: “It’s a great plea­sure work­ing with David and I’m thrilled he’s been given the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete for Great Bri­tain.

“I’ve seen him de­velop from a young man who didn’t com­mu­ni­cate much into a tal­ented and con­fi­dent ath­lete who rou­tinely helps other lifters, and cap­tains his pow­er­lift­ing team.

“We didn’t set out to teach David how to coach oth­ers.

“That’s some­thing that’s nat­u­rally de­vel­oped in him as he’s pro­gressed through his train­ing.

“It was al­ways in him and be­com­ing a Spe­cial Olympian has brought that out.

“It’s won­der­ful to see him pass­ing on his en­thu­si­asm and help­ing oth­ers with their feet and grip tech­niques.

“He has great tal­ent and po­ten­tial and now has the op­por­tu­nity on an in­ter­na­tional stage to prove him­self.

“He re­ally de­serves this chance and we’ll all be wishing him well in South Africa.”

The Gateshead Spe­cial Olympics club is ex­pand­ing into New­cas­tle this year, and look­ing for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to get in­volved.

Ath­let­ics, boc­cia and foot­ball ses­sions are pro­vided by qual­i­fied sports coaches to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties every Thurs­day night from 5.30-6.30pm at Walker Ac­tiv­ity Dome.

David Martin, cen­tre, with, left to right: coach Fred McKen­zie, sec­re­tary pf Spe­cial Olympics Gateshead Tyne and Wear Marie Slater and his mum An­gela Martin (David’s mam)

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