Ian Rose competed in judo winning a bronze medal at the Atlanta 1996 and silver at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

Introduced to judo at the age of 7, Ian says 

Within three months the teasing stopped… I now had this new confidence, this new self-esteem, I wanted to be Ian again. I liked myself because I’d found something I was good at.

Ian Rose with his 1996 Atlanta bronze medal and 2004 Athens silver medal

Image ©Ian Rose

Early life

Born on the 1st of May 1972, Ian Rose contracted retinoblastoma, a children’s eye cancer affecting the retina, as a baby, resulting in him losing his left eye and most of the sight in his right.

By the age of seven, the many operations Ian had undergone had left him with an indent on the right side of his face and he had to wear thick glasses. Realising that he needed help to improve his self-esteem, as he sometimes came home from school in tears after being teased about the way he looked, Ian’s parents introduced to him to judo.

The two coaches at Micklefield Judo Club in High Wycombe. Coaches Ron Cleere and John Oke warmly welcomed him to the club and treated him exactly the same as all the other members, with no special treatment because of his limited vision. From that point on, judo became a big part of his life and within three months the teasing stopped because Ian’s new confidence meant he was able to ignore it.

Although he worked hard in training and had a passion for success, it took Ian two years to win his first medal. Ian continued to improve, and in 1989, while in his last year of secondary school received his first international selection, competing in the European Visually Impaired Championships.

Life as a Paralympic Athlete

Ian competed in five successive Summer Paralympics, the Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games winning two Paralympic medals. Ian retired after the Beijing 2008 Games because of a back injury. 

Lured by the thought of competing in front of a home crowd, he came out of retirement aiming to represent ParalympicsGB at his sixth Games in London. It was not to be, as there was not enough time for him to recover from a training injury of a snapped anterior cruciate ligament.

Retirement as a Paralympic Athlete

Nominated by the British Judo Association, the National Governing Body for the Olympic and Paralympic sport of judo in Great Britain, Ian was chosen as a torchbearer and opening ceremony performer for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Ian said 

It’s a very special honour for me, my family, friends, coaches and everyone who has helped me in my career. I’d have loved to be competing in London but it wasn’t to be with injuries but this is the next best thing. I owe a lot to my wife Debbie, children and clubs such as Micklefield Judo Club.

Ian is a club coach at the Micklefield Judo Club, where he has been an active member since the first week it opened in 1973.

A motivational speaker for businesses and schools, Ian has set himself a challenging target 

As with most successful sports and business people, goals are very important to me and I now have a new one. Offering age appropriate workshops, speeches and performance coaching sessions, I aim to inspire over 250 thousand people by the 1st May 2037 (My 65th birthday).

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

Competing in five consecutive Summer Paralympic Games from Barcelona 1992 to Beijing 2008, Ian won bronze in the Men’s Judo -86kg at the Atlanta 1996 and silver in the Men’s Judo +100kg at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

Other sporting events

In addition to his Paralympic achievements, Ian has won four golds and a bronze at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) European Championship, five medals, including gold in 1995 and bronze in 2006 and 2007 at the IBSA World Championship, bronze in the Men’s Judo -100kg at the IBSA 2007 World Games in Sao Paulo and silver in the Men’s Judo -100kg at the IBSA 2005 World Cup in Sao Paulo.

Other awards and recognition

In 2005 Ian won the Sports Personality of the Year and Male with Disability titles at the Wycombe and Marlow Area Sports Council Awards.

Ian was awarded his 6th Dan at Wycombe Judo Centre in September 2014, being recognised for his competitive success and work promoting judo at grass roots level in schools across the country.

An Interview with Ian Rose

Interviewer Marion Lowe, October 2012

Ian talks about the importance of judo in developing his self confidence and identity as a visually-impaired person in this interview.

Extract from the interview in which Ian explains what happened after his disappointment in finishing last at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, his misfortune at missing out on competing in London 2012 but how he still played an important role in those Games…..

But just after Beijing that hit home again – the next games are London – I can’t miss that – if I had half a chance of competing in London, I would be silly not to try. So I took a year or so out and went back into work, but then an opportunity presented itself to me at the end of 2010 and the Programme Manager for the Paralympic Team for British Judo approached me and [said] ‘We’re in process of preparing the Paralympic Team for London – are you sure you don’t want to do this’ and I was at that time really sure I didn’t want to compete. But actually I really didn’t because I was in my comfort zone and enjoying work.

We had a frank conversation and this thought that I had when I got off the plane from Beijing if I’ve got half a chance of competing in London, I’ve got to take that opportunity because it will never happen again in my lifetime – so I took it and started training. I went to my first International competition since taking time off after Beijing and I got Silver at the US Open in Miami. I was very nervous and it was very tough, but that was to be expected because it was my first one back. 

I started training for the European Championships which were going to be held in November 2011 and this was the competition I had to compete in, and I didn’t have to do that well in it, just step on the judo mat. I had to tick the box that said I had to compete in a major international event within a year before the games. The European Championship was the only opportunity.

I was doing well in the training camps; I was absolutely taking apart the guys who were the medal threats in the Europeans, including the 150 kilo French guy, so I was doing well.

Then two weeks before the Championship I snapped a ligament in my knee in training. It happens, nothing I could do about it, and that was me done. There was an operation which needed at least 9 months rehab, and because I was now 40, I’d probably need 18 months to come back from, so I travelled to Dartford where the British Judo based the elite team from, (and I will always remember the train trip as one of the longest I’d taken because I was going to discuss my future and discuss me competing in London), because they may have been able to get me through because of extraordinary circumstances in some way but I sat down with the Coach and Performance Manager, and we had a frank conversation in which we were all agreed – it just wasn’t going to happen. So I accepted it, I had the operation and did some rehab to get walking again, and half way through 2012 the biggest honour in sport was given to me apart from competing – they asked me to carry the Paralympic Torch in Tring.

Round about 1.00am in the morning and there were hundreds of people out that night 6 deep on the pavement, it was an amazing honour and an amazing feeling and the beginning of an amazing 2 weeks of my life. I finished that, went home about 3.00am, up early the next day because I had been asked to be a performer at the Opening Ceremony, and if you watch out for the six retired Paralympians who fly in and fly out doing somersaults and tricks and moves – I was one of them – what a massive honour.

But I would have given that all up to compete in London and have a last shot at winning gold, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Download a full transcript of Ian's interview here