Harrison Walsh was one of the brightest young prospects in Wales on the rugby pitch with a trajectory leading toward playing at the highest level for Welsh Rugby.
However, Walsh was forced to turn to athletics after a freak injury ended his promising rugby playing for Swansea RFC at age 18.
“Unfortunately, I dislocated my knee and pretty much tore everything you can tear,” Walsh said. “Including my nerve which left me with no ability to move my foot. I knew it was something bad because I could not move my foot and my knee was facing the wrong way.”
Among multiple injuries that day, Walsh suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). He also tore his bicep femoris (hamstring), popliteus, the lateral head of the gastrocnemius and the common peroneal nerve which controls his right foot.
“I went from this big, strong Welsh rugby player to this guy who could not move his foot or get out of bed. I lost close to 44 pounds. Your sport becomes your identity. I was a rugby player so what am I going to be if I am not one?”
When he was finally healthy, he started coaching his local Rugby team searching for answers. During this time, he as prompted by another coach about becoming a Paralympian.
“No,” Walsh said. “I never said the word disabled to myself, but I realized I had an impairment which stopped me doing things.”
But, he eventually met with officials about the potential to return to sport and his record-setting journey started in a new discipline.
Last November, Walsh set a new F44 world shot put record of 15.73m at the Para-athletics Grand Prix in Grosseto, Italy.
An F44 classification means lower limb competing without prosthesis affected by limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement.
Walsh’s power — and promise — was also on display winning gold in both F44 Shot & Discuss at the BUCS Championships in 2019.
Walsh’s emergence and strong performances in the sport earned him a spot on the British Athletics Paralympic Futures Academy Program. The program supports athletes towards the goal of medalling at future Paralympic Games, World Para Athletics European and World Championships.
The 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo is next on his list.
“I’ve got the build for discus and thought why not give it a go,” Walsh said. “Why discus instead of shot some might ask? That’s because discus is in Tokyo and it’s as simple as that.”
“In rugby, everybody wants to play for Wales,” Walsh said. “In athletics, I now have the chance to represent Great Britain in the coming years and maybe Wales at the Commonwealth Games in 2022. It is not what I dreamed of growing up, but I now have goosebumps thinking of it.”
Walsh’s incredible story as part of our Transatlantic Storytelling documentary is being produced by Tristan Russell and Ryan Klimcak.
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