A student who defied doctors that said he’d never walk has qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Long jumper, Ryan Raghoo, notched up a distance of 4.61m at Queensland State Championships, which smashes the 4.36m British Record and 4.50m British Athletics qualifier.
It’s an amazing milestone for the athlete, 19, who developed Cerebral Palsy after complications at birth and spent life in a wheelchair until he was seven.
“What I am doing with my body is unheard of. It is not meant to be done,” said Ryan, from Croydon. “They said I would never walk, or talk and it was unlikely l’d survive past the age of 10.”
The anthropology student at Brunel University London now needs sponsorship to get to The European Championships in June, where he aims to get selected for Rio.
“Realistically, I need physio 3-4 times a week,” he said. “Being a Cerebral Palsy athlete, recovery takes about 4 times longer. The average athlete gets muscle soreness for a day, I will have that for the whole week. And I am in constant pain from Cerebral Palsy.”
Ryan has winning form, ending 2015 as UK Number one, European 10 and world 17 after only three months training in long jump. “If I go to Rio anything can happen,” he said. “If you train the way I do you have to believe you can win.”
As a child with a disability, Ryan was excluded from school sports and now campaigns for disability sports in universities. Rio, for him, is about much more than a medal. “I want to show children with disabilities all over the world you don’t have to be held back by a diagnosis or what the doctors say. Anything is possible.”
“I don’t know what the future holds for me physically. I could end up back in a wheelchair. For me it is now. I have to achieve as much as possible while I still can. And it’s not about medals, it is about changing perceptions.”
Ryan could barely stand on one leg when UK Sport Elite coach, Harry King first met him a year ago. “I never quashed his dream because if he would travel two hours each way to train, then he had the right qualities,” he said.
“Now he has the Paralympics and European qualifying distances, though we both know that doesn't secure a place in the team. Selection is tough. But when it comes to Ryan, anything is possible. If I say ‘reach for the moon’, he’ll be ‘no way, I’m grabbing stars’.”
Get Ryan to Rio