Paralympian and world medallist Jack Hodgson presented students from Henshaws Specialist College with their Yellow 5th Kyu Belts at a ceremony in Harrogate on 15th June.
This is a major achievement for every student as they have a range of disabilities and learning difficulties and have worked for up to two years to reach this level, gaining self-awareness and self-confidence through their first experience of a physical contact sport.
British Judo funded weekly coaching sessions for Henshaws students through the 2020 Vision Project, in conjunction with Sport England, to support them to work towards their Yellow Belts. Dermot Heslop 7th Dan, British Judo Regional Development Officer, led the sessions and also organised for Paralympic superstar Hodgson to attend the ceremony.
Hodgson has Usher syndrome, a rare hereditary condition that means he is profoundly deaf and has tunnel vision which reduces the area he can see to the size of a 5p piece. But this has only made him more determined to succeed. The 20 year old won silver at the 2015 IBSA World Games and bronze at the 2015 IBSA European Championships and came seventh at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
However, while they are always on the lookout for the Paralympic stars of the future, British Judo realise that the benefits for disabled people participating extend so much further, as Heslop explains:
“For Henshaws students and thousands of others taking part in the sport, it’s about tapping into the way that judo can build self-esteem, develop confidence, and increase feelings of being part of something. We want as many young people to be able to experience that as possible. This is the case whether they have dreams of making the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games or not.”
It’s clear that Henshaws College students are already experiencing many of these key benefits. Vicky Little is a Henshaws instructor who has been working with the judo group alongside Heslop each week. She said:
“For many of our students, when they first started the judo sessions it was a challenge even feeling comfortable enough to take their shoes off and work close to other students. The goal of achieving first the Red and now the Yellow Belt has given them something to work towards each week. Their increase in confidence throughout the course has been amazing and we are so proud of their achievements.”