A powerlifter from North Wales has thanked Wrexham Maelor Hospital for helping him manage his diabetes, enabling him to become a British and world powerlifting champion.
Jay Penny,19, from Wrexham, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2016 at just 14 years old. His hopes of joining the Army were dashed, and after managing his diabetes with the support of the diabetes service in Wrexham Maelor Hospital, he turned to powerlifting.
Jay said: “When I was first diagnosed I was very upset, especially when I realised I couldn’t join the Army, which crushed my dreams a little at the time, but it led me to working at my go to gym, Valhalla Gym in Wrexham, known for its powerlifting success.
“During COVID-19 I really got into powerlifting, and I was going to compete in my first competition in December 2021, but I injured myself whilst lifting, but went on to win my first competition in Rhyl earlier in April this year, which qualified and led to me competing in and winning the Amateur British Powerlifting Championships in July.”
Jay, after winning the British Championships in his category, automatically was invited and went on to compete in the Amateur World Powerlifting Championships (AWPC) this September in Manchester. This is where he finally had his dream come true by breaking the British Raw Squat Record for his weight class - Sub-Junior u82.5kg, and going on to win and become the AWPC in his category.
Last year Jay worked closely with Dr Rose Stewart, a psychologist at Wrexham Maelor Hospital’s young adult diabetes team to support Jay through dietary issues.
He added: “Last year I got the courage to reach out as I was developing a borderline eating disorder. I was given an appointment to see Rose through the diabetes team and she has been a great help. I didn’t want my diet to start affecting my diabetes and how I view my body or see food, so working with Rose has really helped me.”
Jay has also started to study Sports and Exercise Science in his first year at Manchester Metropolitan University, with the aim of becoming a Strength and Conditioning Coach, to help others like himself in the future.
Jay said: “I want to become a coach for people with diabetes, to help people like me who has a passion for powerlifting but also need that extra support. I don’t see many coaches for powerlifters with Type 1 diabetes, so I feel like I can really be of help, and understand more of what you go through with it.
"I’m particularly interested in helping young people, and be an inspiration to the younger generation, it’s overwhelming to be diagnosed at a young age and I want to show they can go on to do amazing things by managing their diabetes well.”
Speaking on the importance of psychological support for those with diabetes, Dr Stewart said: “Living with type 1 diabetes means that people need to make an additional 180 decisions every single day. The stress that this creates for people living with diabetes and their families can be enormous, especially during adolescence and early adulthood, so it’s essential that people are able access psychological support quickly as part of their routine diabetes care.”