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Bilston judoka Elliot Stewart revels in ‘dream come true’ after Tokyo silver

Elliot Stewart overcame a devilish draw to win judo silver at the Paralympics and match his father’s Olympic achievement.

The Bilston star captured -90kg silver on his Games debut and joined team-mate Chris Skelley, who won -100kg, on the podium at the historic Nippon Budokan, the spiritual home of the sport.

It was the stuff dreams are made of and brought a second major medal in the family with dad Dennis having won bronze for Team GB on the tatami at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

“It’s a dream come true for me and for Dad,” said the 33-year-old, who is able to train full-time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams thanks to National Lottery funding.

“He’s always wanted me to do just as well as he has, even better, so I’m sure he will be super happy. I’ll have to give him a ring in a bit, otherwise he’ll be mad at me!

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“He called me just before the final block, just to run through my game plan and what I need to do, keep my head in the game because getting to a final can be overwhelming.

“You know you’re on the podium so he kept me in check. He’s always been speaking to me the whole way through the Games.”

A medal looked a tough ask when he was given a difficult draw, starting with Rio bronze medallist Shukhrat Boboev.

He won a tight contest with the Uzbek that lasted six minutes and was only settled when Stewart’s rival stacked up three penalties for passive play.

It wasn’t getting any easier as he faced world champion Oleksandr Nazarenko but he threw the Ukranian for waza-ari and that proved enough to settle it.

He came up short in the final against Rio silver medallist Vahid Nouri, who threw him for ippon.

“It went amazing. I had some hard fights, a really tough draw,” he said.

Bilston judoka Elliot Stewart revels in 'dream come true' after Tokyo silver
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“I knew I’d done the work. I’d done the work at home. I’d done everything I can do so it just shows.

“I got bested in the final. He’s a good opponent, a really good opponent. Just made a little bit of a mistake, but I’m pleased with my performance and pleased with my achievements.”

At the age of 28, Stewart was diagnosed with keratoconus, a condition that causes the cornea to bulge and results in blurred vision.

It turned his life upside down, especially with three children to support, but he credits his sport with helping him navigate the worst of times.

“I lost my job, not just my vision and being a father of three, me and my wife didn’t know what I was going to do or how I would support my family,” he said.

“But then, my sport came through with me. I came to Judo and it’s done the world of good for me.

“It’s got my head in the right place, it’s got me focused on something, and my other visually-impaired teammates that I’ve been competing with today have shown me that just because you lose your vision, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen




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