Powerlifter with Downs Syndrome and autism Dan McGauley is crowned British champion

A powerlifter with Down's Syndrome whose parents were told he would never make a "valuable contribution to society" has been crowned British champion.

Dan McGauley, 31, from Colchester was born with a heart condition, and he is also partially deaf and has autism.

His mother Judith McGauley said: "We were told he wouldn't walk, he wouldn't talk. He wouldn't go to school, he wouldn't achieve anything. 

"They didn't want to do his heart surgery because they said he'd never make any valuable contribution to society. He has represented his country on umpteen occasions. 

"We're thankful that people have given him the chance to do this. Every competition he goes to his supported by people all over the world."

Dan took up the sport more than 10 years ago and is now a regular on the powerlifting circuit.

He was crowned British Open Powerlifting Champion in the 59 kilo class last month after squatting more than twice his body weight.

And when he describes the sport, he makes his achievement sound disarmingly simple.

"I just pick it up and then put it down, safety man says 'down', and that was absolutely marvellous," he told ITV News Anglia.

McGauley is already a world and Commonwealth champion and he is in the gym in Colchester three times a week to train.  

His mother said: "He would spend 24 hours a day in the gym, if he had his way. He'll say that this is his happy place."

But when the pandemic hit, all of his familiar things were taken away, something that the athlete found difficult to deal with.

Mrs McGauley added: "He knows when he gets up in the morning until he goes to bed at night exactly what he's going to be doing. But during lockdown, it was difficult to understand why he couldn't go to the gym, why he couldn't do his competitions.

"Dan's had a hard year this year. He lost his dad. We lost the best part of our house in a house fire. And he's still, thriving, he's still coming back, and he's just achieved so much."

McGauley's trainer Kitty Burroughs said: "Dan is very special because of his commitment to the sport. I think other people can just turn up and train at the gym. 

"But for Dan, getting here is extra hard. He's got hearing problems, sight problems, he's got autism. 

"So for him to come that often and work so hard, it's much harder for him to just turn up and and work that hard on the platform."

But under the bar, he is equal and there are no special exceptions, says his mum.

"The bar doesn't know whether it's you, me or anybody else with a disability. 

"He's got to obey the same rules as everybody else, which is one good thing about this sport that everybody follows the same rules. They don't make any allowance just because it's Dan.

"We are very, very proud. We can only go so far with him, but the rest of it, he's got to do."