Jack Hodgson, 19, is a Commonwealth judo champion, and former Sense Young Deafblind Person of the Year. This week he’s fighting his way to sporting glory at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Jack recently spoke to Ian Carpenter – Sense’s National Sports Manager who helps deliver accessible sports programmes and activities – about training, living with Usher syndrome, and how small adaptations in sports can help people follow their dreams.
Rio will be your first Paralympic Games – you must be really excited?
It’s extremely exciting! But of course there’s a lot of pressure. I’m representing Team GB and the focus of the media is on us.
I wasn’t actually expected to qualify for Rio – my target has always been Tokyo in 2020. But I’ve had a great first year on the international scene and ended up at number four in the world.
I’m the youngest in my weight group (+100kg) worldwide, so hopefully I’ve shaken the other guys up a bit as youth is on my side!
How is training going?
Good! Life has had to take a back seat with training and preparation increasing at a rapid rate. So time at home with family and my girlfriend Becca has been limited, but it’s all worth it! I train for two hours in the morning plus another two in the afternoon. Then there’s additional daily strength and conditioning sessions, weights, rehab, ice baths, and national open training sessions each week. It’s eat, sleep, train, repeat!
You’ve also become a bit of a celebrity…
Ha, with the build up to the games there have been a lot of media requests and I’ve been on Channel 4 quite a lot. The Superhumans Show, Sunday Brunch… and I’m in the Channel 4 Paralympics advert! The momentum from London 2012 is continuing and C4 are fantastic at covering Paralympic sports. The British public really embraced 2012 – and are continuing to embrace it!
Do you see yourself as a role model for people with Usher syndrome?
I hope so. When I was diagnosed the doctor pretty much told me to stay in for the rest of my life. Needless to say I changed hospitals and paid no attention! Usher syndrome is such a challenging condition but I am determined to do my best and raise awareness of it.
Does Usher affect how you train and compete?
It’s a challenge! I am profoundly deaf and cannot wear hearing aids on the mat. Therefore it takes a lot of concentration to understand what is going on. Everyone I train with knows to tap me to get my attention and speak clearly so I can read their lips. My teammates all have challenges with vision – we’ve walked into many a lamppost! But we are all very positive and laugh at each other’s misfortunes!
What advice would you give to young people with Usher?
People who have Usher are resilient and talented! I know of people who are rock climbers, who own their own businesses, have written books, have done parachute jumps, gained degrees – the list is endless! Sometimes small adaptations are all that are needed to follow your dreams. Go for it!
The Paralympic Games will be broadcast live on Channel 4 on 7-18 September 2016. The judo competition kicks off on 8 September and you can follow Jack’s journey on Twitter @JackHodgsonJudo
Visit www.sense.org.uk/active to find out more about Sense’s sports and activities programmes for people who are deafblind, and those with complex needs.