A PARALYMPIAN who survived cancer as a baby only to be bullied for his looks at school urged students to always do their best.
Judo Paralympian Ian Rose presented prizes at the annual Year 9 and 10 awards ceremony at Haughton Academy, Darlington, which is part of the Education Village.
He told staff, students and their families how he had developed cancer as a baby and undergone surgery to save his life.
“I lost my left eye and was partially sighted in the right so I needed very thick glasses,” he said. “When I was about seven children started to be very nasty and teased me about the way I looked.
“It was horrible and what little self-esteem I had was taken away and I left school most days in tears. I started getting into trouble because I was fighting back. Then I had a lightbulb moment.”
His father was a professional wrestler and took him to judo classes. “I had no confidence and it seemed the worst place possible for me,” he said. “Then my dad said something that was to give me my life back – ‘how do you know you can’t unless you give it a try’, he said.
“I’m so glad I did. I made more friends in the first three weeks than ever in my life and the teasing stopped. I also gained the skill of being able to talk to people in the right way and once you have learnt that everything else falls into place.”
After watching the Paralympics on television he decided he wanted to take part one day and bumped into a Team GB coach at a judo camp. “I gave it 100 per cent and was selected,” he said.
His achievements included four European titles, World Champion in 1995 and a variety of medals at Paralympics until a broken leg suffered in training ended his career in 2012.
“That was a disaster but exciting things started happening,” Ian said. “I was asked to carry the Olympic torch and take part in the opening ceremony in London and now I get to talk to inspire others.
“Life doesn’t end in gold every time but what is more important is your journey. As long as it is your best, no one can ask any more.”
He presented students with accolades for achievement, effort and commitment in subjects, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme and head of year.
Principal Jonathan Lumb said: “These awards evenings are one of the best occasions of the year as they recognise the progress students are making. It is important to reflect and think about this progress.
“As Ian has said we all face difficulties in life but it is how you react and bounce back that is important.”