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Disability is no barrier for martial artist Rory as he strikes world championships gold

PUBLISHED: 17:21 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 19:05 20 September 2017

Rory Lark overcame his disability to win three gold medals at the World Martial Arts Games in Florida. Picture: Tina Clarke

Rory Lark overcame his disability to win three gold medals at the World Martial Arts Games in Florida. Picture: Tina Clarke

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A talented martial artist has overcome his disability to secure three gold medals at the World Martial Arts Games.

Mr Lark competed in point sparring, weapons kata and open-hand kata. Picture: Thomas Chapman Mr Lark competed in point sparring, weapons kata and open-hand kata. Picture: Thomas Chapman

Rory Lark, who is aged 30 and lives in Blundeston, travelled to Florida with the 24-strong Team GB squad earlier this month, becoming the first person with a disability to compete at the games in their 11-year existence.

A head injury suffered when he was five-years-old left Mr Lark without the use of his left arm and spasticity in his left side. However, having expressed an interest in martial arts as a teenager and becoming a talented competitor, he now specialises in Krav Maga, which originated as a form of military self-defence.

Mr Lark competed in points sparring, weapons kata and open-handed kata at the games from September 7 to 10, exceeding all expectations along the way to return home with his medal haul.

A 24-strong GB squad travelled to compete in the games, held in Orlando. Picture: Tina Clarke A 24-strong GB squad travelled to compete in the games, held in Orlando. Picture: Tina Clarke

Despite heading abroad to compete in an international championships for the first time, Mr Lark explained it was in his nature to keep his feet on the ground.

“Competing at the worlds was something I’d always wanted to do, but I just treated it like another training session,” said Mr Lark.

“People were saying to me beforehand ‘I bet you’re looking forward to it’ and, even though I was, I didn’t want to hype things up too much or I would have made myself more nervous.

Mr Lark was the first person with a disability to compete in the Games in their 11-year existence. Picture: Tina Clarke Mr Lark was the first person with a disability to compete in the Games in their 11-year existence. Picture: Tina Clarke

“I didn’t have a target before the games, but I certainly didn’t expect to win three golds.”

Mr Lark’s mother Tina Clarke travelled to watch him compete and was overjoyed to see her son perform so well.

“I had not actually seen Rory do the points sparring before in the flesh so I was really nervous,” she said.

Rory and his mother were temporarily stranded in Florida after Hurricane Irma swept over from the Atlantic, but eventually managed to return home. Picture: Thomas Chapman Rory and his mother were temporarily stranded in Florida after Hurricane Irma swept over from the Atlantic, but eventually managed to return home. Picture: Thomas Chapman

“When it came down to watching him compete I was very proud - I thought I’d keep it together but I got very emotional!”

Although he is allowing himself to enjoy his moment of glory, Mr Lark is already considering what his next step is going to be and harbours hopes of progressing disability martial arts in the region.

“People see me competing and wonder how I do it; it’s difficult for people with disabilities to get involved,” added Rory.

Rory with Team GB coach Chris Hemstock, who accompanied the squad on the trip. Picture: Tina Clarke Rory with Team GB coach Chris Hemstock, who accompanied the squad on the trip. Picture: Tina Clarke

“Potentially, I’d like to start my own martial arts academy for people with disabilities, but I’d like to do more competitions first.”

Stranded in the storm

It wasn’t all smooth sailing in Florida for Mr Lark and his mum, after they found themselves stranded in the States whilst Hurricane Irma swept across the Atlantic.

The pair were due to fly home on Monday, September 11 but, as a state of emergency was declared and hundreds of thousands of people evacuated, it soon became clear that sticking to their existing plans would be a difficult task.

“The worst thing was the build-up to the hurricane and not knowing how bad it was going to be,” said Mrs Clarke.

“There was even talk that the games was going to be cancelled, but if there was any possibility of it going ahead then we were always going to stay.”

Fortunately, they were not affected by the worst of the storm, which has caused catastrophic damage in parts of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean.

They were eventually able to fly home on Wednesday, September 13.

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