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