Leo Barker: A True Fighter

Leo Barker, an up-and-coming young judoka, avid sports fan and Cancer Research UK Ambassador shares his childhood cancer treatment journey and his future ambitions with British Judo.

In June 2020  Leo Barker was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma. Soon after receiving the diagnosis, Leo underwent recurrent surgeries, and treatments and eventually was approved for a liver transplant. Leo’s journey has not been easy, but his positivity was the shining light that supported many around him as they joined him through his treatment.

Despite upholding a positive attitude throughout his illness and the fantastic support team around him, Leo had to come to terms with the idea that he would not be able to return to the mat. Leo was devastated as judo is incredibly important to him. Throughout treatment, Leo had the support from many of British Judo’s biggest names such as Ashley McKenzie, Sally Conway, Sarah Clark, Billy Cusack and Sarah Adlington. This support from his role models in judo inspired Leo to fight even harder to get back onto the mat.


After many surgeries and a successful liver transplant, Leo completed his treatment in February 2021.  His courage and bravery supported a fast recovery, only six days after his transplant he was caught having a dance-off with his brother Cole while still in the High Dependency Ward!

Leo’s incredible positivity and bravery continued after his treatment, going on to become a true inspiration to others as he was chosen to become an ambassador for Cancer Research UK’s Star Award. Laura and Steven, Leo’s parents were delighted to hear that Leo was chosen for the ambassador role, with Laura commenting:

“We felt he really deserved the recognition for being such an inspirational boy. He never gave up hope, always giving us reassurance and making us laugh every day!  We now get to share his bravery and positivity with the rest of the country.”

A love for judo and pure determination along with the support of his surgeon and coach Ramsay Thomson meant that Leo could return to the mat and was able to slowly build up his participation, while also showing off all 22 scars with pride!

After making a strong recovery, Leo was soon medalling at the British Judo Schools Championships in March 2022.

Leo has many ambitions throughout his personal life and judo, and is eager to share them with other fellow judoka commenting:

“My main judo ambition is to achieve my black belt.  I would also really like to go abroad to compete. Being off the mat really makes you appreciate your time on the mat.  I’m so glad to be back! My other ambitions include raising awareness and money for some of the great liver, transplant, and cancer charities.  They help so many families, including mine.”

The British Judo Association is excited to see Leo back on the mat this December, competing in the British Judo Championships in Sheffield. The Association would like to wish him the very best of luck at the Championships and look forward to supporting him with his judo journey.

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