Ali Jawad: From defeat to determination

In the 2012 Games, London Paralympic powerlifter, Ali Jawad, came fourth following a controversial decision that saw him miss out on a medal. He’s back now, primed for Rio, with a point to prove – that losing is not an option
Ali Jawad: From defeat to determination
July 10, 2016   |    Ali Jawad

Heartbreaking is how I’d describe that moment four years ago when I narrowly missed out on a silver medal in front of a 6,000-strong home crowd. Those people chanted my name and waved Union Jack flags throughout, and to lose in the way I did was devastating.

It was my third attempt at lifting in the 56kg event, and I successfully raised 189kg which would’ve taken me into second position, only to see it dismissed as a ‘bad lift’ due to a technical issue. To this day I don’t know the reasons behind the judging panel’s decision – in fact, the International Powerlifting Federation has since changed the rules of appeals because of what happened to me in London.


I was born in Lebanon without legs, but my disability has never held me back. In fact, when I was younger, I told my mum I wanted to play football for Liverpool FC! I was oblivious to the fact it was physically impossible. And that’s how I’ve always been – determined to succeed.

What’s been a bigger battle for me was being diagnosed with Crohn’s after competing in Beijing in 2008. Doctors suggested I retire, because it’s hard enough to live a normal daily life never mind competing at the top level. So it was a struggle to even make the 2012 Games.


I fell out of love with the sport after London. I suddenly didn’t want to carry on, I felt very deflated. It took me six months to get my head around what happened and question whether I could go again – because of the Crohn’s and the previous harsh decisions.

However, in the lead up to this year’s Games in Rio, I’ve had the best training cycle of my career. My support team is centred around trying to get me better – both physically and mentally. I go into Rio ranked second in the world in my sport and feel ready to challenge the number one: Egyptian lifter Sherif Othman. After what happened last time, though, I’d take silver!

But there’s no such thing as failure, in my opinion. When you do everything you possibly can, but it doesn’t pay off, it’s simply a big lesson learned.


Ali’s DOs and DON’Ts on using frustration to propel you to success

Take control
Even though I have a great support team around me, I’m the boss!

Listen to opinions
There are lots of elements that contribute to success, so take lots of opinions but build your own.

Believe in your ability
No matter how many setbacks you’ve had, believe in yourself. Take the risk!

Repeat mistakes
When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, I kept making the same mistakes with my diet, thinking it’d be OK this time. I was wrong.

Change what works
If the process isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The route to glory will just become diluted.

Mix with negatives
Surround yourself with support.


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