Combating spirit: Paralympics medallist Oliver Lam-Watson breaks down limitations

With a lightning-quick swish of his metal épée, Oliver Lam-Watson reveals why he’s a grasp of his sport. “En garde!” will be heard echoing all through the coaching facility in London. The Briton is likely one of the finest wheelchair fencers on the earth and is within the course of of coaching for his subsequent huge occasion.

Oliver Lam Watson, 2022, Porsche AG

Focus: Oliver Lam-Watson describes his self-discipline as a cross between chess and fight sport.

As shouts of “En garde!” echo across the partitions of the London facility the place he practices, his sword gleams silver in his proper hand. His left clings to his wheelchair, which is anchored firmly to the bottom, and a masks conceals the look of focus on his face.

The surprising flick-to-the-back maneuver is fast, adopted by a strike in opposition to his competitor’s blade, a transfer known as a beat. Lam-Watson then counters with a subterfuge, deceiving his opponent with a physique swerve – and make contact with! On this event, his sparring associate, who has use of each her legs, isn’t any match for his ability. A groan, a murmur, after which a pleasant handshake – the coaching session involves an finish and the masked fighter transforms again right into a grinning athlete.

For Lam-Watson, fencing is a cross between chess and martial arts, requiring each psychological and bodily agility. The 29-year-old demonstrated the boldness with which he had mastered this ability when he received a silver medal in Staff Foil on the Tokyo Paralympics in August 2021. Having already secured bronze in Staff Épée, it marked his second victory in just some days – and Lam-Watson lastly had the chance to point out everybody what he was able to.

Porsche 911 GT3, 2022, Porsche AG

Objectives: because the proprietor of a GT3, Oliver Lam-Watson has fulfilled one in every of his greatest desires.

Hailing from South London, the Paralympian was born with a uncommon situation referred to as Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome – a vascular dysfunction affecting his left leg. Others view this incapacity as a motive to level out all of the issues he can not do. “I need to destroy that stereotype,” says Lam-Watson.

“I feel that was the primary time I thought-about myself to be totally different,” he says. “And that’s why I hated sports activities at school – it was one thing that separated me from everybody else and highlighted my variations. However I all the time shied away from the thought of incapacity. I didn’t speak about it, and by no means actually confronted it.”

By his early twenties, now learning structure at college, Lam-Watson nonetheless hadn’t absolutely come to phrases with residing with a incapacity – telling buddies that the crutches have been the results of a sports activities damage, or another mishap. “I used to be sick of it dominating my life,” he says. “I simply wished to be seen as an equal. However after some time individuals realized that possibly it wasn’t a snowboarding accident.”

Oliver Lam Watson,  911 GT3, 2022, Porsche AG

Success: the wording of Lam-Watson’s tattoo, “Do extra,” sums up how he lives his life. It took him simply six months to get a spot on the nationwide workforce, and 4 years to win his first medals.

Then, on the age of 23, he determined to do one thing about it. “I assumed, if I’m going to stay with this, let’s see what I’m able to.” So he joined a gymnasium, and, quickly after, a good friend satisfied him to participate in a Spartan Race, during which opponents must deal with a troublesome, military-style impediment course. “It was type of scary – 15 kilometers and numerous mud and water, all on my crutches,” remembers Lam-Watson, who went on to finish six extra of the occasions.

Oliver Lam Watson (r), 2022, Porsche AG

“I used to be fairly happy with myself,” he says. “However then I went to a physician to get checked over, simply to ensure I used to be nonetheless OK to do these races, and I bear in mind he mentioned to me ‘nicely that’s not an actual sport, is it?’ I used to be actually irritated – I’d achieved what I felt was fairly a giant deal, solely to be informed that it wasn’t a sport.”

Decided to show the physician fallacious, he started wanting that exact same night in 2017 for Paralympic sports activities that he might tackle – and shortly. One self-discipline that instantly stood out was wheelchair fencing.

So he referred to as each fencing membership in London till he discovered one keen to take him on. His first coaching session was just some days later – and shortly he was having between 5 and 6 classes per week.

Six months later, Lam-Watson was chosen for his first World Cup in Hungary. “I used to be an entire rookie and I obtained fully smashed by among the world’s finest fencers. It was a extremely steep studying curve,” he says. Undeterred, he saved up his coaching and labored even tougher – and he didn’t have to attend lengthy to benefit from the fruits of his labor.

“It’s nobody else’s proper to inform you what you possibly can or can’t do.”
Oliver Lam-Watson

His first medals within the 2018 World Cup have been quickly adopted by his successes in Tokyo. Absolutely the spotlight and a unprecedented expertise. It’s an unbelievable story, and one which Lam-Watson hopes might encourage others. Greater than that, he hopes he might help fully reshape how individuals view incapacity, and has already established a profitable on-line following, together with a YouTube channel the place he tackles many points starting from anxiousness to amputation, in addition to posting behind-the-scenes movies from the Paralympics and, extra not too long ago, clips of him doing skateboard tips.

Oliver Lam Watson,  911 GT3, 2022, Porsche AG

Each day driver: Lam-Watson has been driving a 911 with PDK transmission for 2 years.

He additionally shares among the many images he takes – a ardour he developed throughout his research. “I obtained an previous Nikon FM2 movie SLR and spent my lunchtimes within the darkroom,” he says. “Pictures is an escape. It provides my thoughts and physique a relaxation, away from skilled sport.

”Greater than anything, he likes to seize on a regular basis moments. He can usually be discovered strolling the streets of London’s Soho district, his digital camera on the prepared. Typically it takes him a few months to shoot a single roll of movie. “However then (when I’ve it developed) it’s like the pictures change into recollections of these little moments I’d virtually forgotten about.”

Oliver Lam Watson,  911 GT3, 2022, Porsche AG

Breaking down limitations and alter perceptions

“I take advantage of social media to assist break down limitations and alter perceptions,” he continues. “When some individuals see a disabled individual, they consider hospitals, crutches, wheelchairs. Nevertheless it’s not true. I can gown simply as cool as you and I will be simply as robust as you – or nonetheless you measure your self in opposition to society. Simply because I’ve a incapacity, it doesn’t make me a special individual.”

Lam-Watson isn’t any stranger to adverse feedback and discrimination – each on-line and in actual life. The issue, he explains, is that individuals with disabilities are all the time informed what they’ll’t do – and infrequently what they’re able to. “I’m not saying that every little thing’s potential. Nevertheless it’s nobody else’s proper to inform you what you possibly can and might’t do – it’s so that you can discover out.”

For the medalist, that is very true in terms of automobiles and driving. For the previous two years his each day driver has been a Porsche 911 GT3, which comes as a shock to many individuals. Particularly once they see him parking in a disabled parking house or displaying his blue disabled parking go within the windshield.

“I can drive an automated automotive,” says Lam-Watson. “That’s why my GT3 has a PDK transmission. However you may as well have a sports activities automotive fitted with hand controls.”

As we drive by London, Lam-Watson is in his component on the wheel. “The GT3 provides me the power to do issues I can’t all the time do with my very own physique – to go quick, to be nimble and agile. It seems like an extension of me.”

Lam-Watson has discovered his stability as a profitable skilled athlete. However he doesn’t plan an excessive amount of for the longer term. “That might take me out of the second,” he explains. “My angle is, if you wish to do one thing in 5 years’ time,  why not simply do it now?”

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