Contents

Ali Jawad, nicknamed ‘The Showman’, was born in Beirut, moving to London with his family when he was six months old. A Para powerlifter, Ali won silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and represented England at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games.  

©Getty Images

Early Life 

Ali Jawad was born on January 12th, 1989, in Beirut, Lebanon, when he was just six months old his family moved to London, United Kingdom. 

It was hard enough to bring up kids that didn't have a disability, let alone someone who did. So my parents took the decision that, in order for me to have a normal life, we needed to move away. England was our best option as they provided prosthetic limbs which enabled me to walk.

Ali is a dual congenital amputee, having been born without legs below the knee. He grew up not really thinking of himself as disabled and participating in all kinds of sport, including playing football with his mates. He went on to discover Judo which he describes as:

giving me a real taste for competition and the emotional rollercoaster of sport.

With no appropriate Paralympic judo category, Ali moved on to para powerlifting (find out more about para powerlifting here). His talent was discovered in 2005 and in 2006 he won silver in the Junior World Championship, followed by junior gold in the 2007 European Championships. 

Life as a Paralympic athlete

Ali was selected to represent ParalympicsGB at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, however, the night before the medal competition he became extremely ill and was only able to finish ninth. 

In 2009 he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease which can result in severe weight loss, fatigue, and other complications which led to him having part of his intestine removed in 2010.

While the diagnosis changed how he trained, he continued his career as a Paralympic athlete, making it to London 2012 where he finished fourth. 

For me, quitting isn’t an option. I want to walk away on my terms, not forced away by my body.

His 2015 gold in the -65kg class at the IPC Powerlifting European Championships in Eger, Hungary, ensured his selection, as reigning World and European Champion, for the ParalympicsGB team at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games where he won silver in the -56kg weight class. Watch Ali lift here

Kept out of competition for the next 18 months by illness, Ali returned to training in 2018, winning bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, QLD, Australia. 

Affected once again by his illness, Ali remained determined: 

I am risking my health for this [the gold medal], but I had to think about the dreams I had when I was about six years old. The dreams I had then I still have now and I have to fight for them.

Effectively self-isolating for three years to manage his health condition, Ali was selected for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, saying: 

The postponement [of the Paralympic Games] has given me another chance because I don’t think I would have made the Games if they had happened [in 2020]. The delay has given me an extra year to get fit and ensure my Crohn’s is under control.

Finishing sixth in the men’s -59kg powerlifting category, Ali said: 

It’s not a medal but I really hope that people don’t remember me for the medal but for being someone who didn’t give up – and that they can use that in their life.

Appointed to the Commonwealth Games England board as an athlete representative, in 2018, in the lead up to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, Ali said: 

I'm delighted to be joining the Commonwealth Games England board at such an exciting time for the organisation. Representing England at Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014 and on the Gold Coast [in 2018] have been some of the highlights of my career. It's a real privilege to be offered the chance to be able to give something back to the organisation. I look forward to ensuring we've left no stone unturned to give our team the best possible chance in Birmingham.

Ali’s para sport involvement is not limited to the arena, an advocate for clean sport, he is a UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) Athlete Commission member, saying:

Competing cleanly and fairly is the foundation of sport, maintaining its integrity and the reason millions of people around the world love it.

In 2018 Ali wrote a UKAD blog before a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting where there would be a vote on whether the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was compliant with the Code. Headlined with 'Athletes must unite for #NoUturnWADA', he went on to ‘We must not tolerate cheating’, ‘We must be able to trust the system', 'We must unite’ ending with ‘join us and get behind #noUturnWADA’. You can read the whole blog here.

Ali is also an academic and is working on a thesis related to international misrepresentation in para sport, something he feels that is just as important to the integrity of sport as doping.

Recollections

Ali says para powerlifting came about almost by accident when a friend took him to a small local gym where he bench pressed 100kg. 

The whole gym stopped to watch but I had no idea what I’d done. I thought I was in trouble! But 100kg is a huge amount. I was spotted by someone from British Weightlifting who invited me along to test and then train for the squad. That’s how my powerlifting journey began.

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

Ali won silver in the Up to 59kg at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with a lift of 190kg.

Other sporting events

In 2013, Ali won gold with a lift of 185kg in the second round and went on to set a new world record of 185.5kg in the fourth round at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Asian Open Championships in Kuala Lumpur. He also took bronze in the Up to 54kg classification at the IPC Powerlifting European Open Championships in Aleksin, Russia.

2014 saw him win another gold in the -59kg classification at the 2014 IPC World Championships in Dubai, beating his own world record by lifting 190kg.

At the 2015 IPC Powerlifting European Championships in Eger, Hungary he added another gold in the Up to 65kg classification. 

Claiming bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, QLD, Australia, Ali said:

I'm truly lost for words. It was a miracle to even get here, but to come away with a medal is beyond everything I expected. Eighteen months battling Crohn's disease, thinking my career was over. Thank you to everyone that wished me support. It means the world to me.

Other awards and recognition

2013 saw Ali named British Weightlifting's Powerlifting Athlete of the Year.

In 2014 he was the IPC Athlete of the Month for April and in 2014 and 2015 was Leeds Sports Awards, Sportsman with an Impairment of the Year.

References

  • https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/paralympics-powerlifter-ali-jawad-interview-tokyo-2020-paralympicsgb-1170250
  • https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/paralympics/ali-jawad-weightlifting-paralympicsgb-crohns-disease-b1908395.html
  • https://ph.au.dk/en/research/research-units/sport-and-body-culture/research-unit-for-sport-and-body-culture/international-network-of-doping-research/perspectives-on-doping-and-anti-doping/ali-jawad/
  • https://paralympics.org.uk/athletes/ali-jawad
  • https://www.ukad.org.uk/news/article/blog-ali-jawad-athletes-must-unite-for-nouturnwada
  • https://www.paralympic.org/ali-jawad
  • https://www.yorkvision.co.uk/archived/big-interview-ali-jawad/09/10/2012
  • https://teamengland.org/news/ali-jawad-2021
  • https://britishweightlifting.org/article/ali-jawad-appointed-to-commonwealth-games-england-board
  • https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1016805/asian-gold-and-world-record-for-british-powerlifter-ali-jawad-in-kuala-lumpur
  • https://www.paralympic.org/news/jawad-world-record-dubai-was-career-defining