Colin Judge’s story is one of sheer resilience, dedication and reinvention. As he puts in his final preparations ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games where he will compete for Ireland in table tennis, we’re delighted to announce that he has joined the Gym+Coffee family as our latest MLR Ambassador and we couldn’t be more excited!
Growing up and studying in St. Michael’s College in Dublin, Colin was in an environment where sport (especially rugby) was very prominent from an early age. He definitely fed off this culture and used that energy but it wasn’t until his first competition in Paris where his eyes were really opened to the dedication and hard work needed to compete in the upper realms of the para table tennis world.
From there, Colin’s rise up the rankings was quick and his hard work started to reap rewards on the biggest stage. After agonisingly missing out on Rio 2016 by one place, he battled back to become European Champion in 2017! An achievement that came about after heeding his own advice and adopting a fearless approach to failure.
“The best advice that I can give people and when my life started getting richer was when I wasn’t afraid to fail anymore. The fear of what others might think of you is often what holds people back in life.”
As much as table tennis is an individual sport, Colin highlights the importance of his own community in encouraging and enabling him to chase his dreams. He admits that life hasn’t always been easy, growing up with a disability, but that he is very grateful for the strong community that supports him in his efforts.
“My parents, I’ve always looked up to them. They’ve prepared me for a world which isn’t really fully set up for someone like me. Throughout all the tougher times, they’ve supported me and kept me grounded. And to all my family, friends, coaches and sparring partners over the years, I owe a lot to their support too.”
The road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games has been anything but straightforward for Colin who has had to show serious resilience to overcome multiple barriers along the way; the biggest one being his reclassification in the middle of 2018. As a result of that decision, which was completely out of his control, Colin went from ranking 4th in the world to 26th.
In typical fashion, Colin was able to find the silver lining to this setback. By making some changes in his mental approach, changing up some tactics and then, putting all that to work against new, more difficult opponents, he made the necessary strides forward to put himself in Tokyo 2020 contention.
“When I was reclassified, I really had to change my mindset and add a lot more to my game. I built up a lot of mental strength and was able to use it to my advantage before and during games. I really just pushed myself to the limit as I knew I needed to if I was to be successful.”
Showing such creativity and reinvention when his back was against the wall was extremely courageous and is inspiring to anyone who finds themselves facing a hurdle. While the Covid pandemic gave him some extra time to work on his craft, it also dramatically reduced the opportunity to earn ranking points due to fewer events taking place which added another challenge. Luckily, history didn’t repeat itself twice like Rio and Colin qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games via a Wildcard invitation which is a remarkable achievement given the challenges he has faced in the past few years.
Not only does Colin inspire the current generation, he is determined to open up more doors for younger people with and without disabilities to get involved in sport, be it on a social level or for competition. We are absolutely delighted to have him join as our latest Make Life Richer Ambassador and we’ll be cheering him on at Tokyo 2020 and beyond.