Ralph Rowe: Weightlifter and first black British Paralympian
Ralph Rowe is the latest trailblazer featured in our Hidden Figures online series, running throughout Black History Month, bringing to life the stories of black sporting pioneers you may never have heard of
Last Updated: 05/10/20 5:58pm
Ralph Rowe is one name that doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of Britain's most decorated athletes.
But Rowe, who was Great Britain's first black Paralympian, competed in six Paralympic Games, in three different continents, across 20 years - he picked up medals at five of them.
Rowe represented Pinderfields Spinal Unit at national level in weightlifting, which is no longer a Paralympic sport after being replaced by powerlifting following the Barcelona Games in 1992.
His Paralympic Games debut came back in Tokyo in 1964 where Rowe came away with a bronze medal, but he would improve upon that by picking up silver at the Tel Aviv Games in 1968.
But it was at the Heidelberg Games in 1972 where Rowe really made his mark, reaching the pinnacle of his sport by claiming the gold medal in the heavyweight category.
Rowe added another silver to his medal collection when he travelled to Canada four years later for the Toronto Paralympics in 1976.
His extraordinary success was recognised in 1978 by the Sports Journalists' Association. Rowe was the recipient of the illustrious Bill McGowran Trophy, awarded to a high-achieving athlete with an impairment, an accolade since won by Tanni Grey-Thompson and David Weir.
Rowe did not medal at the Arnhem Games in 1980. But he picked up the third silver of his career in 1984, when Stoke Mandeville - widely regarded as the birthplace of competitive para-sport - hosted the Paralympic events for wheelchair athletes with spinal cord injuries.