Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Thursday, 13 January 2011
BBC London 94.9 looks Towards 2012


Ali was born with no legs, but that has not stopped him aiming for a podium place

Dekan Apajee
BBC London

I start the morning with some stretching and a few press-ups to get me in the mood. Then it's off to the University of East London to meet and train with a guy who's hoping to get on the medal table at London 2012.

He's only 21 years old and in five short years of competing in his event he's got three British Championship titles under his name. To top it all off he also attended the Beijing Games.

Ali Jawad is one of those individuals you read about in the papers and you just have to take a breath and think, wow! To have so much determination at such a young age and to have achieved so much, is nothing short of inspiring.

Ali was born with no legs, but that hasn't stopped him aiming for a podium place. At the age of just six, Ali decided he wanted to win a Paralympic gold medal.

It was about finding the right sport for me, and I found powerlifting
Ali Jawad, 2012 Paralympic powerlifting hopeful

But Ali's journey didn't start out in the weights room. Up until his teens Ali was a talented Judo competitor, but after some encouragement by a friend, Ali found he had more than one talent.

Ali meets me in the reception at the University of East London's Stratford campus. Ali's fortunately been granted a bursary to cover his training expenses for the duration of his study.

I am struck by how slight he is. I imagined his arms would be bigger than most people's thighs but he doesn't look disproportionate at all.

The University of East London provides Ali with a bursary to cover his training expenses while he's studying.

The weights on

We make our way to the gym and, on entering, I'm struck by the heat and the sound of a radio playing the latest upbeat pop tunes.

There's a group of lads to my left practicing the clean and jerk technique - they cast a quick look over at us and Ali acknowledges them. Ali makes his way over to the matted area, where his bench sits ready.

After a quick chat with Ali about what he wanted me to do - it was off to the changing rooms.

Powerlifiting facts
Classification is by weight category as in non disabled powerlifting competition
Powerlifting is governed by the IPC Powerlifting Committee which was founded in 1989
There are ten bodyweight classes for both men and women in IPC disability Powerlifting

After changing I looked down at the bench press, and it suddenly struck me - each side of the bar is loaded and totals 70kgs.

Ali noticed my apprehension and quickly let me know that we'd be warming up first. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Stick, nipples, line

To my surprise Ali pulled out a stick - the length of a broom handle and he told me: "This will be instrumental to get you to the big bench."

The broom handle, sorry stick, is used to practice technique, probably the most important thing in power-lifting. One wrong mistake through poor technique and you could be left with a serious injury.

Lying on the bench Ali instructed me to hold the stick shoulder width apart and make sure it was in line with my nipples. Half a centimetre either side isn't good enough.

Once I had finally lined up, Ali said: "Take a deep breath in, and then follow the line down. Once the stick reaches your chest exhale as you push it back into the starting position."

This wasn't too bad, I thought but then my eyes glance back upwards and I remembered I wasn't actually lifting the weights yet.

2012 Paralympic powerlifter Ali Jawad showing Dekan how it should be done
2012 Paralympic powerlifter Ali Jawad showing Dekan how it should be done

Time to hit the bar

After a few more reps Ali moved me off the bench and we threw a 4kg medicine ball at each other. "It's the other person's responsibility to catch it. Keep your elbows in and explode as you throw it."

After about 20 throws my hands started to sting. It was like catching a giant cricket ball that had been thrown by a tennis ball machine.

Ali saw me wince: "It's about time we tested you on the proper bench."

First we tried the bar by itself, it alone weighs 20kgs. Happy with my technique Ali suggested it was time to stick the weights on.

They are coloured coded and we worked our way from the green 10 kilo weights to the yellow 15 kilo weights. In total I managed to lift 50kgs.


I was impressed and so was Ali. So much so that he told me it was time to push my limit, which he calculated as 70Kgs.

That is just less than the weight of an average man and less than half of Ali's 175kg upper training limit.

If I could do the 70kgs then I would be a very happy chap.

Keen to make sure I didn't overexert myself Ali called one of the lads over to spot for me just in case I got into trouble.

Powerlifter Ali Jawad shows Dekan the power of the 4kg medicine ball
Powerlifter Ali Jawad shows Dekan the power of the 4kg medicine ball

"Psyche yourself up, scream if you want," were Ali's final words of advice as I laid down on the bench and started focusing on the task at hand.

I started remembering the technique, I gripped the bar taking the full 70kg weight. After a deep breath and I began lowering the bar down to my chest - (always thinking, this is heavy, this is really heavy).

As I began to exhale I used all my strength to push the bar away from my body to the sound of Ali shouting, "Drive, drive, drive, now rack it."

Before I'd even realised I had pushed the bar all the way up to the rack, I'd done it. Cue a big smile.

I know I had only been there for the best part of an hour, but to my surprise, Ali said: "Give me six months and I can make a champion out of you, six years and possibly an Olympic champion."

My smile just got bigger.


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific