For any athlete, winter training is a gruelling encounter at the best of times, but for Para-Powerlifter Ali Jawad, winter presents its own unique challenge.
Suffering from Chron’s disease, Jawad is only too aware of the damage another flare-up will do to his competition preparations, with winter a time when he must most be on his guard.
Restricted to only begin training for this year’s Commonwealth Games 10 weeks before the event, where against all the odds Jawad secured a bronze medal, after recovering from a recent flare-up, a repeated incident of this nature would almost certainly spell the end for his hopes of reaching the Tokyo Paralympics in two years-time.
“I know that the consequences of me getting sick again are just not thinkable, if I have one more flare then that means it’s over,” explained Jawad.
“Being a crohn’s sufferer, the winter is the worst part of the year because it means I’m more susceptible to illness and another flare, so I need to be really careful and vigilant over the next couple of months.
“I need to take the most drastic measures to make sure I don’t flare from now until Tokyo to give myself the best shot of making it fully fit.”
Advised by doctors in July that there was little they could do to improve his condition without a major medical procedure, Jawad’s decision to refuse treatment may come as a surprise to many.
The 29-year-old was offered the option of either having a life-changing operation to insert a stomach bag, or going through stem cell therapy, which would involve a six-week intensive course of chemotherapy.
However, with both options certain to jeopardise Jawad’s hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics, his decision to reject treatment and manage his Crohn’s as best as he can was a surprisingly straightforward one to make.
“For people around me they thought it was a tough decision but for me it wasn’t. Personally that goal of winning in Tokyo that’s what my number one goal is, so if it meant rejecting treatment for two years and making do with my situation I thought it would be worth the risk,” said Jawad.
“It’s really important that I’m strict on myself and my team for the next two years to limit my chances of flaring, especially that I’m on the edge now.
“I’ve put myself in a massive risk of flaring but for me it’s worth it. If I can get to Tokyo and at least challenge for that gold medal then it will be worth it and I can have treatment afterwards.
“If this is my last shot then I might as well train like it is my last shot.”
Despite securing a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in April with limited training behind him, and then a gold at the Europeans just weeks later, Jawad hasn’t competed at world level in over two years.
“The big one is the World Championships next year in Kazakhstan, that will be my main competition next year the first time I compete at world level since Rio so it will be a good indicator a year out from Tokyo to see where I am.
“I’m not going to have my health under control for the next two years, I’m always going to be on the edge.
“As long as I can maintain a level where I can train consistently and be consistent in everything that I do we’ll see where I get because obviously I’ve not tested myself against the top guys yet.”