Jack the judo lad

A teen is defying a rare genetic disorder to excel in judo.

And Queen Elizabeth student Jack Hodgson’s latest feat was to win a gold medal at the 2012 Commonwealth Championships in Cardiff.

Fifteen-year-old Jack has Usher Syndrome, which has caused him to be profoundly deaf and impaired his sight, but competes in both mainstream judo and the disabled category of the sport.

Jack began his career in judo aged six, as an outlet for childhood energy while living on an army base in Northern Ireland.

A move to Lincoln in 2006, and subsequent relocation to Gainsborough allowed him to continue his progression at Retford Judo Club and Cherry Willingham Judo Club in Lincoln. Along with younger brother Dylan, 12, Jack won a place in the Notts County squad and late last year the pair were selected for the England Junior team - Jack with the cadets and Dylan with the pre-cadets.

Mum Nicky explained that competing at the top level meant a lot of travelling.

“He goes to Cherry in Lincoln, England Excel sessions in Hull, training in Sheffield and Dartford and with Steve McConville at Gainsborough White’s Wood Lane.”

“There’s a lot of driving, it’s non stop training and competing.”

West Lindsey Leisure Centre provides another training base for Jack, thanks to sponsorship from Everyone Active.

And all the hard work is obviously paying off.

At the Commonwealths in Cardiff he was pitched into a fight with an older competitor, due to a lack of opponents in his age group.

Nicky, who is originally from Wales, was delighted to see her son pick up a gold medal.

She told the Standard: “There was no one in his age group to fight, so he fought the 16 to 17 age group gold medallist and won by throwing him and getting him in a hold, and his opponent tapped out.”

“The Commonwealths are huge. He’s already the British special needs champion and he came third in the British mainstream championships, but it was an immense experience seeing him win in Cardiff. I’m from that area so it was a bit like coming home. It was a very proud moment.”

Not only does the martial art keep Jack in good shape, Nicky believes it helps him to cope with Usher Syndrome.

“It causes deafness and vision impairment, it’s one of those random genetic things that could be in any family,” she said.

“And it could mean he could lose even more vision.”

“But the judo definitely has helped him. It could be quite a daunting prospect losing his vision, but he knows that no matter how bad it gets he can still compete, he can still have ambitions.”

While the longterm may hold some uncertainties with regards to his health, the future is definitely bright on the judo mat for the brown belt.

This year will see him fight at the North West age band championships, the English Open and competitions in Belgium and Holland.

And beyond that, he hopes to fight for Great Britain.

“As a rule he fights in the mainstream categories, even though he’s got poor vision.”

“But we’re in contact with the GB paralympic squad, they’re monitoring everything he does - the only fighter in his weight category has just got injured and may be close to retiring, so there’s a possible space for him.”