London 2012 Paralympic silver medallist and Beijing Paralympic bronze medallist Sam Ingram is one of the most highly-regarded judoka in visually impaired judo.
So it was hardly surprising when around 100 budding Borders judo players turned out at the Queens Centre in Galashiels earlier this month to attend a Tri-Judo session led by the 28-year-old who lives and trains in Scotland.
“It’s pleasing to see that the Borders, in terms of population, has such a good number of good quality judo players,” he told The Southern.
Both local children and coaches turned out for the JudoScotland event, during which Ingram shared his experiences and techniques with his engrossed audience.
Originally from Coventry, Ingram and his brother Joe were both born with the genetic eye condition conal dystrophy, meaning they cannot see in colour and have no central vision. After leaving the school he attended University College Falmouth to study broadcasting.
It was here, at the age of 21, Ingram was inspired to take up judo by his brother, who competed in the martial art at university.
“I would have loved to have played football or something, but I just couldn’t because of my vision,” he told us.
“There is no point in dwelling on it, that’s just life and you have to get on with it.
“Judo is one of the most accepting and inclusive sports out there and that is one of the reasons I was attracted to it.
“You can have an Olympic medallist sitting on the mat along with a blue belt child and people with all different disabilities. There aren’t many sports in which you can do that and I think its fantastic.”
Since taking up the sport at a comparatively late stage in his life, Ingram has never looked back. He represented Great Britain at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, where he won a bronze medal. He also competed at the 2007 IBSA World Championships in Brazil, where he picked up a silver. He won a silver again in 2010, and competed in the European Championships in 2011, winning a gold on that occasion. He trains at JudoScotland in Edinburgh alongside leading fully-sighted judoka such as Euan Burton, James Austin and Matthew Purssey.
Among the many local judo clubs represented at the event were members of the Galashiels based Focus Judo, including Earlston’s Billy Walker who is also visually impaired.
“Watching Sam at the Paralympics in 2012 inspired me to take up judo again after a long break and it was just great to be able to meet him in person,” said Walker.