Michael Gray was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes when he was only 2 years old.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder causing a person to have dangerously high or low blood sugar levels due to the body’s inability to produce or respond to insulin. Type 1 diabetes is found in about 10% of all cases, the persons body won’t produce insulin at all and will take insulin injections for the rest of their life. You can imagine how challenging this can be to manage when doing highly active sports where blood sugar levels are key to performance!
Michael grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland and his parents like any others had a tough time trying to get an infant to stop crying let alone trying to inject a toddler with an insulin needle. Constantly being taken away from playing with toys and friends, things young boys see as their whole world, young Michael couldn’t understand why “mummy and daddy” would do this to him.
Going into primary school, Michael said, “It wasn’t that bad. I always looked at the better side of my diabetes. I just thought I was special.” At a young age Michael was able to have a very positive outlook on life, especially compared to others in similar positions. In addition to Type-1 Diabetes, Michael was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 8. Two disabilities that took a lot out of out of his time and life. But none of that would stop this young man. He was able to look on the bright side and embrace his disabilities. Doing this at a young age came as an advantage later on in life.
One Michael entered high school he was introduced to many new things. New timetables, new expectations and new people. Anyone who’s gone through high school knows how brutal it can be socially and academically. Imagine undergoing those challenges with additional disabilities. Deciding where to sit at lunch could and who you associate with could make or break your popularity and affect your livelyhood. This was a lot for Michael to handle, “But I didn’t look at it in that frame of mind, I looked at it as I’m gonna do this challenge and I’m gonna be fine, as I did.” That statement is something that everyone, young and old should take into consideration. If a young man with these challenges can have such a positive outlook then why can’t we all?
Now that he was in high school what did Michael do next? Football (or Soccer for the American audience)! This boy had a craving and penchant for tackling challenges. Being active in a sport is something that’s proven to actually help children with dyslexia. His team went on to win the Scottish Cup. How did he manage being an athlete with such a serious metabolic challenge? Michael explained he would pack extra lunches and injections for practices after school. He didn’t want any special treatment. Even though it was recommended he only play home turf games, he played every game, home and away. This boy was fearless!
Michael later went to work for his father doing landscaping. That’s a lot of physical labor! Digging, lifting and building, these are things a doctor would tell Michael to stay away from. Even though he was able to do the extra injections and eat more food, the thing that bothered him most was having to inject himself infront of others. “I just didn’t like doing it infront of people that were scared of needles etc. etc.” Instead Michael went to his car to eat his lunch. “Not the most social option I know, but hey I got peace.” Always looking on the bright side!
Michael began to dive into martial arts at the age of 15 starting with karate. He had his first K1 fight when he was 16 and traveled to Thailand for training and fighting. “Diabetes never entered my mind. I trained and I trained hard.”
During his first weigh in he had to spend a significant amount of time showing doctors his medical records so he could fight. As if having a disability isn’t enough, the bureaucrats make you do additional paperwork as well!
Michael got in and won his first match by way of knock-out in the 3rd round! (But with the highs come lows.) Michael later took a fight with only 2 weeks notice. He had to lose 1 stone (14 lbs), which isn’t recommended for diabetics, but did it anyways. “I was slow, my reading was all over the place and frankly I looked ill.”
This was a tough time in his life because he lost by decision. It was the first time he set a goal and didn’t reach it.
Michael took some time off and reevaluated himself, got into Judo and within 2 years made black belt.
Now Michael works along-side Diabetes UK and the JDRF (A leader in the search for an end to Type 1 Diabetes) foundation to help others like himself pursue sports and live healthier more active lifestyles. He regularly teaches in primary schools and high schools along with Judo classes. He even trains with the National Judo Team. His message to others with diabetes is that it shouldn’t stop a person from doing what they love.
“I hope in some small way that I might encourage other diabetics and dyslexics to get involved in sports by acting as a role model and highlight that these conditions are not disabilities and that you can compete at the highest levels for competition. When I was growing up the only recognizable diabetic and dyslexic athlete was (now Sir) Steve Redgrave, I hope to emulate Mr. Redgrave.”
Michaels goal is to travel doing what he loves. He’s planning on competing in the Commonwealth Games 2014. He wants to continue achieving his goals and be a role model to others like himself. But he needs sponsorship to do this and is actively looking! This young man has done so much more than most do without disabilities. There’s no reason money should limit him now.
If there are any sponsors out there willing to support this young man please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org! At SciFighting we are adamant about giving credit where it’s due. This athlete has beaten many odds and gone against the statistics. He’s a good role model and we happily support the message he is conveying to others!