This weekend, one of the final Paris 2024 Paralympic qualifiers is taking place in Heidelberg, Germany. Whilst hundreds are preparing, some closely following. Former British Tokyo 2020 Paralympic silver medallist, Elliot STEWART, retired following his success at the last summer games. He since relocated to Australia and despite the distance, he remained in touch as a judo fan. Moreover, he is going to be leading the Australian Paralympic judo team for the upcoming cycle. We caught up with him to reflect on past years and to seek his view on the upcoming Paris games.
How have you been since leaving the competitive field?
Retirement isn’t quite what I expected. I thought it would be a breeze, finally getting to relax and settle into a normal routine. However, I’m finding it challenging. I miss the intensity of training, pushing myself to the limits, and having a clear goal to strive for, like my dream of becoming a Paralympian. It’s tough not having that drive and focus anymore.
When did you move to Australia and what’s it like there? Are you involved in judo at any level?
I relocated to Australia in 2022 with my family, and I have to say, it’s been fantastic. The Sunshine Coast is an amazing place that suits us perfectly.
Initially, I was searching for teaching opportunities, as I am a qualified Physical Education Teacher. However, I was offered a position as a business broker, which I hesitated about at first. Surprisingly, I’ve found myself embracing the role, and I believe I’m getting better at it every day.
In terms of Judo, I’ve recently been offered the position of Paralympic Head Coach, which I gladly accepted. I feel deeply honoured and excited about this new role. It’s something I’m truly passionate about, and I can’t wait to contribute positively to our athletes and the broader Paralympic community.
Have you been following any IBSA events at all?
I’m a huge fan of Judo, and I make sure to watch and follow every single event. The sport captivates me, and I’m always amazed by the incredible performances of the Paralympic athletes whenever they compete. Additionally, I enjoy keeping up with my former teammates, cheering them on and supporting them in their endeavours. Watching Judo brings me immense joy and excitement, and I feel a deep connection to the sport and its athletes.
What’s your thoughts on the changes that took place during this Paralympic cycle?
I view the changes implemented during this Paralympic qualification period as both significant and crucial. Judo, like any sport, undergoes continuous evolution, and I think the adjustments to the classification system and competition formats are vital to uphold principles of fairness, inclusivity, and the ongoing development of the sport.
Currently we find ourselves in an experimental phase within Paralympic Judo, characterized by numerous recent changes that have happened and the upcoming adjustments to weight categories post the Paris Games. Adapting to such changes can undoubtedly pose challenges for athletes. However, it’s worth noting that individuals with visual impairments, who have encountered and navigated challenges throughout their lives, possess a remarkable capacity to adapt in circumstances like this. I believe that the Paralympic association will come to a final decision and the athletes will thrive with the changes.
Your top three picks for gold in Paris?
This is tough, there are so many good fighters the men’s lighter weights in J1 and J2 are hard to predict. Hellios in the J2 -90 is looking unbeatable at the minute and the women’s J1 -57 could be anyone’s in the top 5. But if I had to choose, +90kg J2 would be between Nouri – IRI (person who I lost to in the Paralympic final in Tokyo) and Chris Skelley – GBR. -90kg J1 will be between Dan Powell – GBR and the Brazilian Authur Calacante De Silva. As per the +70kg J2, I would go for the Brazilian Rebbeca Silva.
Well, see you around Elliot!
Author: Szandra Szogedi