By Tom Degun
January 9 - Daniel Steward, a BT engineer working in Cowley who has cerebral palsy, is looking to become one of the world’s best Paralympic weightlifters ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year only three years after taking up the sport.
Last month, Steward made an impressive debut to senior competition after he finished sixth in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Games in India and is now hoping to return for the Commonwealth Games, which includes a number of disability events.
The 23-year-old from Bicester, who says that the sport he took up three years ago has helped him gather the strength to move from a wheelchair to crutches, revealed that representing England at the 2010 Commonwealth Games is his immediate goal before he turns his attentions to competing at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Steward said: “It was an amazing experience in India and it has given me the confidence to press on with the sport.
“It was my first senior competition since I moved up from junior level and I was really pleased with how it went.
“The event gave me an insight into what I need to be aiming at and to finish sixth was a real bonus for me.
"It also helped me acclimatise to the country ahead of the Commonwealth Games."
Due to his condition, Steward suffers from lack of balance as well as reduced strength in his legs and competes by bench-pressing weights of up to 100kg.
He said: "Working on my upper body strength and training up to four or five days a week has definitely improved my mobility and I also swim regularly which helps both my body and cardiovascular fitness.
"I now walk on crutches and don’t use the wheelchair very often at all.
"Cerebral palsy can obviously hold you back sometimes but I don’t let it interfere with my life."
Steward currently lives with his parents but will be looking to find a place with fiancée Emma after they marry in April this year and also admitted that he loves his employment with London 2012 Tier One sponsor BT.
Steward said: "I really enjoy the work I do for BT.
"I get taxis there and back from my home every day.
"I have to balance work and training because obviously the more seriously I want to take the sport, that harder I will have to work.
"But I’m really looking forward to working hard towards making the squad."
BT said that they were proud of Steward and that he was just one example that demonstrated the company’s huge commitment to disability sport and the Paralympics.
A spokesperson from BT told insideworldparasport: "BT has a long and proud history of supporting Paralympic sport in the UK.
"We were the first commercial partner of the British Paralympic Association back in 1989.
"In addition, last year we provided financial support for the creation of a ParalympicsGB fundraising film that features Sir Paul McCartney’s 'Live and Let Die' as the soundtrack.
"And last year BT became the four year title sponsor of the BT Paralympic World Cup - the largest annual international multi-sport competition in elite disability sport.”
"BT has a number of sporting Ambassadors, including Paralympians Oscar Pistorius, Lee Pearson and Nathan Stephens."
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