My disability made lots of sports unsuitable for me

My name is Colin Judge and I was born with three missing limbs.

I’m 24 years old and I’m from Dublin. My biggest passion is table tennis but I also like swimming, music and reading. Getting involved in sport at an early age wasn’t easy. My disability made lots of sports unsuitable for me and it took me a long time to find the right one. I started playing table tennis around age 13 and never looked back since then. It was the only sport that I could beat my brother at so I stuck with it! I joined UCD Table Tennis Club where I continued to improve through my dedication to training and gaining match practice by entering competitions each month.  By the age of 16, I was representing UCD in able-bodied competitions all around Ireland and my table tennis continued to go from strength to strength. I made the UCD Men’s Intervarsity Team and won the cup every year during my time there.

There are lots of reasons I like being active. I like to keep fit and sport is a great way of doing this. Table tennis has given me the opportunity to travel the world and meet many of my best friends. It has also increased my confidence a great deal, relieved stress during difficult times and improved my sleep (which I’ve had lots of problems with). The biggest reason why I play sport though is that I enjoy it so much.

I’ve always felt that being active is very important but there were challenges in the early days. Lots of sports were unsuitable for me because of my disability but over time I found the right one. I think that there are so many activities available nowadays and believe that there is something for everyone.

I represented Ireland for the first time at the French Open in Nantes in 2012. This week proved to be a very challenging one for me as I was now competing with some of the world’s best but this only motivated me further and made me hungry for more. I continued to compete internationally and my results improved every year after that. I managed to win bronze medals in Belgium, Hungary and Thailand before winning his first international gold medal at the Romanian Open in 2015. The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were on the horizon!

I missed out on qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games by 1 place. The top 16 players in the world qualified and I was ranked 17 on deadline day. This was one of the toughest times of my career but I always said that I’d work harder than ever before and be ready for Tokyo 2020.

The greatest moment of my career came in September 2017, where, against all odds, I won the first ever gold medal for Ireland at the European Championships in Laško, Slovenia. I lost my first match which made it very unlikely that I would pass the group but I lived my message of never giving up that day and won my first major title in the most dramatic of fashions!

My pursuit for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will begin next month in Slovenia. I then move to Slovakia to train full time and give myself the best opportunity to qualify. I will travel all around the world this year from China to Argentina in search of valuable ranking points and a place at one of the biggest sporting events ever!

For those who may not be active yet or don’t know where to start, I’d tell them to be patient. It can take a long time to find the right one. There are so many great opportunities out there though and I believe there is something for everybody. The more that you invest in a sport the more that you will enjoy it. So don’t delay, get out there and get involved. Follow your dreams!