Retaining his world junior long jump title was the culmination of starting afresh for Coalville para-athlete Karim Chan, who is among the nominees for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award. Karim, 19, had a stagnant period of 18 months where he was unable to improve on his personal best but this year, he found lift-off.
A new approach to training and working with John Shepherd, a former international long jumper, helped rebuild Karim’s confidence. The Leicestershire resident, who competes in the T20/F20 classification, improved his personal best by 37cm to defend his crown at the World Para Athletics Junior Championships.
But with the transition from junior to senior athlete coming over the next year, Karim is aiming for bigger and better things thanks to SportsAid.
“The nomination means so much to me, knowing that all the hard work I’ve put in have been worthwhile and I can build from here to progress to the next level,” the Loughborough College student said. “This season was one of the hardest and best so far, I came through an 18-month period without any progress.
“It was my lowest start of the year, I felt like I was letting down all the people who supported me to put me where I was. But my jump coach, he worked with me with all the basic techniques in February, it was like learning everything from the beginning again and putting logical theories into practice.
“Retaining my title with a new PB made me feel proud to be representing Great Britain and it renewed my confidence to get my head down and work hard.”
SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award was launched in 2006 with double Olympic medallist and diving world champion Tom Daley the inaugural winner. Paralympic champion Hollie Arnold MBE claimed the accolade in 2008 with para-athlete Sally Brown, hockey player Harry Martin, heptathlete Morgan Lake and sprinter Jodie Williams among the previous victors.
Karim is now in line to join such illustrious company as one of 10 nominees selected from around 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports. Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, and five-time Paralympic para-equestrian champion Natasha Baker are among the panel of judges casting their eye over the nominees.
Off the track, Karim is continuing his education as he balances training alongside studying at college and his placement in a school. Working with children with disabilities is something Karim, who received his SportsAid support through Nelsons this year, would love to do in the future.
“I am working at a special education school for children with disabilities,” Karim explained. “I enjoy working there very much and assisting the PE teacher while they are teaching students swimming and PE sessions.
“There are lots of things to learn working with children that have different levels of disability, some like me and some that are more severe. I would like to enrol into a school sports apprenticeship to continue working in schools in the future.”
To reach the Paralympics in 2024 is Karim’s ultimate goal and he is being helped by SportsAid, who offer funding and recognition to young athletes at a crucial, early stage in their careers.
“I know the transition from junior to senior won’t be easy and I need to improve my performance to reach selection standard in order to be selected for the World Class Performance programme,” Karim added. “It’s very much about training hard and smart, preventing injuries and performing well in competitions.
“My ultimate ambition is to represent Great Britain in the Paralympics in 2024 and beyond. I want to be winning gold medals at international competitions and become one of the best long jump para athletes in the world.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Tuesday 19 November. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.