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By Will Jennings
Elliot Stewart has swapped black belts for blackboards since clinching his hard-fought Paralympic silver.
And the Bilston judoka admits his newfound passion for teaching could derail his plans for climbing one step higher on the podium at Paris 2024.
Stewart, 33, battled his way to the 90kg final at Tokyo 2020 before slipping to defeat against Iranian Vahid Nouri.
Upon his return to the Midlands, Stewart decided to turn his attention to pastures new and is currently studying for a PGCE qualification to become a PE teacher at a local secondary school.
Stewart is relishing a change in direction and says channeling his passion for sport in a different environment leaves the future of his career uncertain.
— ParalympicsGB (@ParalympicsGB) August 29, 2021
Stewart, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding, said: “It’s a good question about the future – and I don’t even know myself.
“My whole judo career was leading up to that one fight day – I said to myself, I’m not going to make a decision about what’s happening straight afterwards.
“I’m just going to see what happened on the day. I got a medal and the result, which is great.
“It’s great and I’m really enjoying the teaching since being back – the kids in the school are great and really interested in what I do, and me as a person.
“It’s been great – the staff have been brilliant and I get great support from the kids.
“The teaching is definitely a factor in determining my future in judo.”
Stewart has admitted to struggling to adapting back to the demands of everyday life and being ‘exhausted’ at resuming his responsibilities as a father.
The judo ace is a dad-of-three to Shyla Blue, 10, Olive Star, nine and Caspa, five, who have all revelled in his exploits since returning from Japan.
Stewart overcame a gruelling-looking draw to navigate his way to the final at the historic Nippon Budokan – the storied home of Japanese martial arts.
But he was unable to beat Nouri after toppling reigning world champion Oleksandr Nazarenko in the last four.
Next year marks the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where local hero Stewart would be competing in front of a raucous home crowd.
But Stewart – whose medal was one of 1,000-plus achieved by British athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding to elite sport in 1997 – admits his academic exploits may pose an obstacle to his 2022 ambitions, adding: “I want to enjoy and celebrate what I’ve done.
“And then afterwards, when my body’s recovered and I’m not hurting so bad, I can take in what I achieved at the Games and make a proper, educated decision.
“I’ve got the Commonwealths in Birmingham, then the World Championships, and then Paris the following year, which is just down the road.
“But even if I don’t compete in Birmingham, I’ll be doing my best to go and support Team England.”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes