Introducing our new Ambassador Ryan Raghoo

Today we are excited to announce our new and first Broni&Bo Brand Ambassador, Ryan Raghoo.

Ryan is the British record holder for T36 Long jump, ranked 5th in Europe and top ten in the world. 

Ryan will be joining the team for the next 12 months giving us inside access to his hectic training schedule, the day in the life of an athlete, his style inspiration off the tracks and the amazing charitable work he does as part of his Enabled not Disabled campaign.

We are delighted to welcome him on board, so lets hear from the main man himself.

Welcome to the Broni&Bo family. So, Ryan, have you always been interested in athletics?

That would be a big no. When I was at school I was excluded from sports the entire time I was there, 5 years of sitting on the sidelines, you can understand why I really hated sports altogether.

Has that made you more determined today?

Of course and its helped shape the person I am today along with my passion to change the perception of disability in sport.

What was life like growing up?

When I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy the first 5 years was spent mostly in hospital, it became home to me. I have vivid memories of green walls, countless injections, and protesting at the food I was given. We were told I’d never walk and it wasn’t really until age 7/8 I started walking independently. I spent around 8 years in a wheelchair, buggy or being carried; in fact it wasn’t until age 11 my parents stopped bringing the buggy with us.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

It’s a neurological condition that affects movement and co-ordination.

Can you tell us more about how you got to where you are today?

It hasn’t always been easy and where I am today wasn’t where I had intended to end up.

I came to Brunel University with the dream of going to the Olympics. It came as a shock to me that one of the top sporting universities in the UK wasn’t prepared for someone with my disability. I though that this sounded familiar.

But with my stubborn nature and drive to succeed I pressed on with a desire to represent Great Britain at the Paralympics. Whilst I had never run before the head coach saw something in me.

So my athletics career started and…

  • 3 months into training I ran my first 60m race, breaking the British record
  • 6 months in I ran my first 100m at the University Championship, I won, setting a Championship record, placing me 4th in the world in my then category T35
  • 2015 I won my first GB vest representing team GB at the World Juniors July 2015 (6 months of training and 1 race – a feat never seen before)
  • At the World Juniors I was told I was too able, had “too much muscle for someone with CP” and my classification was changed, I went from a T35 & 4th in the world for seniors, to 20th in the country and absolutely no where as a T38
  • I came away with no medals, and my rather short time in athletics looked like it had come to a premature end. This championship was a traumatic experience for both myself and coach. Having gone in as 4th in the world for seniors to a junior competition we were not there to make up the numbers we were there to win and then go to the World Seniors and Rio
  • A month later (August 2015) I was representing Team England at the CP World Games (another 1st, two internationals in only my first season), here my classification was changed again to a T36 and I was told I could never have been a T38, reading my medical notes and coming from where I have to where I am now I feel the classification system has punished me for looking different and for working harder
  • At the world games I broke every rule in athletics and decided to do an event I’d never done before: the long jump. I won a Gold Medal (World Games Champion and World Junior record not bad for an event I’d never done before)
  • 2015 I ended as the UK no.1, European no.10 and World no.17 for the long jump, an event I didn’t really know what I was doing. My then PB 2.80m
  • January 2015, I set a new PB of 3.89m (European Champs Qualifying standard)
  • Competed in the IPC Grand Prix in Canberra I set a new PB of 4.34m qualifying for the European Championships and only 2cm off the British Record. (The first time Britain had someone competitive enough to qualify for a Europeans)            
  • 2 weeks later after hooking up with one of Australia’s top long jump coaches I jumped again, setting a new PB of 4.61, breaking the British record and making me the first person in British history to qualify for the Paralympics.
  • I jumped the Qualifying standard 17 times for the European Champs and despite being 3rd in Europe at the time of selection I wasn’t sent, since then I haven’t performed to my capability or demonstrated what I’m capable of as its taken some time to get over this.

Ryan Raghoo in competition

It seems you have had a whirlwind of a story, then throwing in a new challenge and a change in disciplines.

The Paralympics kicks off today. I remember being here in London in 2012 and the atmosphere was electric. At the moment there has been a lot of talk around the Paralympics in Rio and its lack of support. Do you think that there is disparity in the sport?

Sadly even after such a successful 2012 there is a huge disparity between disability sport and Able-bodied sport. If I was the able-bodied British Record Holder, I would not only be going to Rio but would also be funded and sponsored.

There has been a lot of press around the lack of tickets being sold, but there has been some great charity work going on which has been supported by the likes of Prince Harry as part of the #FillTheSeats initiative to help buy 10,000 tickets for local children.

You must be disappointed not to be going to RIO?

Of course I am but you have to keep moving forward and keep focused.

Irrespective of Rio, given the fact I started jumping in December 2015 and in February 2016 I qualified for the Paralympics, this has been such a big achievement in itself. 

Now I am looking forward to the future with plans for a medal at the World Championships, London 2017, the aim for gold at the world Championships in 2019 and to win Gold in Tokyo 2020. There is also the work I am doing with schools and communities to raise awareness of disability in sport through my campaign Enabled not Disabled, so there is still plenty more opportunity for me.

Personal Bests:
Long Jump - 4.61
60m - 8.65
100m - 13.66

What advice would you give to anyone looking to set their sights on competing at the next Paralympics

Always believe in yourself and back your own ability, there have been times in my sporting career that many people said were over ambitious or even achievable, but if you put in the work and believe in yourself you’ll get there.

Ryan Raghoo in traininig

When the games get underway will there be any events that you are looking forward to watching other than keeping an eye on your future competitors?

One person that I'll be keeping an eye on is the teenage South African sprint sensation Ntando Mahlangu, I remember he broke every record and won every medal on offer at the world juniors. 

I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was competing at the end of the world juniors last year in Holland and I knew then he is going to have a bright future. We made friends and he's just a really humble and genuine guy who loves what he is doing.

He's going to be competing in the Men's T42 100 & 200m so be sure to keep an eye out for him.

"Its great to be working with a vibrant young British Brand. I have always liked to push the boundaries on my style and the way I grew has had a big influence on my sense of style and dress and working with Broni&Bo is a perfect compliment to it" - Ryan

Watch out for the next in our series with Ryan, where we will be finding out more about his charitable work and campaign Enabled not Disabled.

We'll also be looking at a day in the life of a UK record holder and not forgetting what he likes to wear when he is not in his work gear (that’s training gear to me and you)

Throughout the Paralympics games we will be donating a percentage of all sales to his training and charity work. 

You can keep up with Ryan on Instagram and Twitter or find out more in his video here.

September 06, 2016 — Matthew Boulding

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