Chichester 2012 medallist hangs up his judo belt

Ben Quilter shows off his 2012 judo medal to youngsters in Angmering before announcing his retirement  Picture by Liz Pearce
Ben Quilter shows off his 2012 judo medal to youngsters in Angmering before announcing his retirement Picture by Liz Pearce

CHICHESTER’S London 2012 Paralympic judo bronze medallist and double world champion and European champion Ben Quilter has announced his retirement from the sport.

But the former University of Chichester student will remain heavily involved with disability sport, having been elected to the ParalympicsGB Athletes’ Commission.

He is also taking up a new position with leisure operator Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) as Disability Sport Officer.

Quilter shot to fame during London 2012 as he battled to win a bronze medal despite snapping the cruciate ligament and rupturing the medial ligaments in his knee just seven weeks before the Games.

He underwent surgery to repair the damage and despite this being successful, the 32-year-old believes the time is right to retire from the sport.

Quilter said: “My circumstances have changed a lot since the games. To get myself back to my best and compete at the top level for Rio 2016 would need total commitment in time and effort.

“I now have a family and with the opportunity with GLL, combined with the relocation of the visually-impaired judo programme to the centre of excellence in Walsall, I felt the time was right for me to retire.”

Quilter, who won gold at the 2010 world championships and 2011 world games, now has his sights set on new challenges and will be aiming to run the 2014 Brighton Marathon and London Marathon on consecutive weekends to raise money for two charities that supported him in his journey as a Paralympic athlete.

Quilter is looking to stay involved with the judo community, saying: “I hope to continue to pass on any knowledge and experience I have obtained through my career, by mentoring, public speaking and coaching.

“This is something I’m passionate about and I see it as a wonderful opportunity to give back and have a positive impact upon others through my own life experiences.

“I am also excited about the challenge of my new career with GLL and am extremely proud to be part of an organisation who have supported me for a number of years through the sport foundation and who give so much back to the community.”

Quilter, who has peripheral vision after developing Stargardt’s disease in 1992, is also keen to recognise everyone that helped him develop in a sport he started at the age of seven.

“I would like to thank everyone who has played a part in making my judo journey such a memorable and enjoyable experience,” he said.

“It would not have been possible to achieve the things I have without a huge network of support. Everyone from the coaches who played an instrumental role in capturing my imagination and interest in the sport as a boy, through to those who have helped me over the years at all levels.

“From the beginning at Brighton Judo Club with Dennis Mitchell, Alan Cooper, Laurence Buckingham and Steve Shuker just to mention a few. To the performance staff that helped me at Dartford as well as Steve Ravenscroft, Steve Gawthorpe and more recently with Jean-Paul Bell. I am hugely grateful for the amazing support and guidance that I have received.

“It is important to mention the incredible work of the support staff over the years who have been an integral part of my career and who have worked hard behind the scenes to help with everything from performance lifestyle, psychological support, strength and conditioning and of course the medical team that have put me back together especially towards the end where I was held together by tape!

“The last few thank yous include the British Judo community and everyone I have ever trained with, especially Graham Trinder and Colin Oates who endured many hours of blood sweat and tears. Lastly my family, friends, everyone that has supported me in competition and of course my wife Francesca who has been the most incredible friend and training partner, supporting me through everything!”

Paralympic coach Jean-Paul Bell said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to work with and share in Ben Quilter’s Judo journey. He is one of the most professional and inspirational athletes I know and a real credit to our sport.”

British Judo chairman Kerrith Brown said: “Ben has been a fantastic ambassador for the sport of judo in Great Britain and the whole of British Judo are extremely proud about what he achieved as an athlete.”