This year's Olympic and Paralympic Games required athletes to train in ways that they never had before as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For British powerlifter Ali Jawad, he had to take some serious extra precautions.
Jawad, 32, ended up "indirectly" self-isolating for three years, the told BBC, in preparation for the Tokyo Paralympics. The athlete has Crohn's disease and was, at one point not long ago, on the brink of death. Because of his immune system being compromised, Jawad decided to self-isolate as he hoped to make the Tokyo Paralympics.
"This is probably the most invested cycle I've ever had in terms of using every ounce of physical, mental and emotional energy just to even qualify," Jawad said. "The last three or four years with my Crohn's and my health, it's been the hardest of my life."
Just hours before competing at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Jawad was sick with flu-like symptoms and assumed it was a run-of-the-mill stomach bug. However, the symptoms got worse when he returned to the United Kingdom after the Games. That's when he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract that can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.
Jawad went on to compete at the London Games in 2012, where he finished fourth, and then won silver at the following Paralympics in Rio.
In preparing for the Toyko Games, Jawad has had to be extremely careful because of his Chron's disease. He even said that whether or not the COVID-19 pandemic happened, he would've been forced to isolate as a result of his condition... because he already was. He chose to isolate and make his own food, as well as not see friends and family, as a way to manage Chron's disease before the pandemic started.
COVID did add to his isolation time, as the Olympics and Paralympics were postponed for a year in 2020. Jawad said that helped his situation, though.
"I was never going to make it last year and the extra year allowed me to attempt to get fitter," Jawad added.
Jawad has stated that this will be his last Paralympics due to the intense preparation that he had to go through.