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Strongman Ali Jawad overcomes illness to win Commonwealth Games bronze

Para-powerlifter is second former UEL student to win a medal on Australia's Gold Coast

Hot on the heels of Aimee Willmott’s golden triumph in the pool, Para-powerlifter Ali Jawad has become the second former University of East London (UEL) student to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Ali, 29, indulged in flamboyant celebrations after winning bronze in the men’s lightweight category after matching his bronze medal performance in Glasgow four years ago with a lift of 161kg for 182.7 points.

His achievement was all the more remarkable after a flare-up of Crohn’s disease meant he was unable to train for 18 months following his silver medal-winning performance at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

He only resumed training last November when he returned to UEL’s SportsDock to work under the guidance of the University’s head of strength and conditioning, Duncan Ogilvie.

Ali was born without legs in Lebanon in 1989 and moved to London as a six-month-old baby. Since taking up powerlifting at the age of 16, he has broken world records and claimed world and European titles.

He studied Sport and Exercise Science at UEL before switching to Loughborough University in 2016. But, after facing a race against the clock to regain his strength in time for the Commonwealth Games, he chose to return to UEL to be reunited with his former coach. 

After securing his place on the medals podium, Ali turned to Twitter to tell his fans: “I'm truly lost for words. It was a miracle to even get here, but to come away with a medal is beyond everything I expected. 18 months battling Crohn's disease, thinking my career was over. Thank you to everyone that wished me support. It means the world to me.”

Ali’s achievement follows Aimee’s gold medal in the pool last week in the women’s 400 metres individual medley. They are part of a seven-strong contingent of former and current UEL students in action at the Commonwealths.

Geoff Thompson, UEL’s Chair of Governors and himself a five-time world karate champion, said, “We’re absolutely delighted to see Ali perform so well after all the physical problems he has had to deal with. His bronze medal is testimony to his talent and determination, not to mention the expert help he has received at UEL, and I would like to congratulate both Ali and the UEL support staff for this remarkable achievement. 

"Coming after Aimee’s gold medal last week, this is turning out to be a memorable Games for UEL, and there is still plenty more competition to come.”

Another former student, Bianca Williams, breezed into the semi-finals of the women’s 200 metres with a comfortable second-place finish in her heat.

But there will be no medal for current UEL master’s student Joe Ikhinmwin, whose England basketball team failed to make it through to the semi-finals when they were defeated 97-79 by Canada.