A dozen years after waking up from a coma in Birmingham, Micky Yule returns to the city to win bronze in para powerlifting

A dozen years after waking up from a coma in Birmingham, Micky Yule returns to the city to win bronze in para powerlifting

There was no way Micky Yule was leaving Birmingham without a medal.

The Scottish heavyweight para powerlifter came to the Commonwealth Games with the greatest drive and purpose of all, fueled by having his daughter, Tilly, in the crowd.

As the six-year-old held a homemade sign reading “DAD”, it was all the inspiration he needed.

“I could see her in the crowd and I looked for her. I needed to see her and [think]’Listen, your daughter’s here tonight, you’re not gonna leave without a medal when she’s here’,” he explained.

Micky Yule says his daughter is his biggest inspiration.(Getty Images: Al Bello)

The 43-year-old was bursting with magnetic passion and emotion reflecting on his performance, tightly gripping Tilly’s hand while speaking to reporters.

“Maybe in other competitions I have missed [lifts]. But I wasn’t going to do it today. I was looking her straight in the eye, and I was bringing that emotion.

“I couldn’t just drift through this competition. I needed to be emotional. I needed it to mean more than ever. I needed to lift like it was my last-ever lift and that’s what I’ve done.”

End of a chapter

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In 2010, Yule was serving in Afghanistan with the Royal Engineers when he stepped on an improvised device (IED).

He immediately lost his left leg, and his right leg also had to be amputated, while he was left with other significant injuries.

Afterwards, he was flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, still in a coma, and spent eight weeks there undergoing multiple surgeries.

In the lead-up to the Games he described his return to the city as a full-circle moment. Perhaps now, leaving with the bronze, it’s something else.

“Maybe it’s a chapter closed and maybe it’s the next one to be opened,” he said.

“The people of Birmingham have been here for me before, when I came back from Afghanistan cut in half, in a coma, and now, hopefully, they’ll witness that and [the medal is] for everybody.

“It’s for Scotland, Birmingham, the whole country.”

Spurred on by crowd and fellow Scot, Eilish McColgan

Yule didn’t just lean on his daughter to get him through the competition. He also urged the crowd to cheer him on for each of his three lifts.

He’d had the disappointment of missing out on a medal at his home Games in Glasgow in 2014 and thought he might never get to experience that crowd again.

But the Brummies embraced Yule as their own, and he re-paid them.

“I wanted to whip the crowd up. I wanted to get the Birmingham crowd behind me,” he said.

A man wearing black and white punches the air during a weightlifting competition
After each lift, Micky Yule turned to the crowd to try to amp them up.(Getty Images: Al Bello)

He admits he also felt some responsibility to perform, having carried the Scottish flag at the opening ceremony, alongside badminton player Kirsty Gilmour.

“You don’t just be the flag-bearer [who] comes in and competes and, maybe, same old excuses for Micky,” he said.

“You compete and you win a medal and you make sure that not only the flag-bearer is a memory but the medal’s a memory as well.”

Yule also looked to fellow Scot Eilish McColgan, who produced one of the highlights of the Games the previous night, sprinting to the line to win the women’s 10,000m to join her mum, and coach Liz, as a Commonwealth champion in the event.

“I must have watched that 20 times,” Yule said.

“She fought back, and she fought back when everybody thought she was going to quit and she didn’t quit.

“Seeing her run to her mum [when she won], I said: ‘Right, that run to her mum is my daughter. Don’t you dare quit on yourself’.”

It has been an extraordinary para sport journey for Yule, one that started in Birmingham in one of his lowest, and now — as he suggests moments he’ll likely retire — he’s finished with one of his highest.

“[Sport] gave me a drive from having surgeries and learning how to walk and being in a pretty dark place. It took my mind off it,” he said.

“Elite sport will give you highs and it’ll give you lows as well, and I’ve had them [both]certainly, but this is a high end and it feels like a pretty good time to go out.”

Watson soaks up her coming of age in para sport

Australia’s Hani Watson was another athlete ecstatic to be on the medal dais, after winning bronze in the women’s heavyweight division.

“I was about to lose my banana peel up there and start crying,” she said.

Watson says it has been a tough year, juggling back-to-back competitions, while working full-time, but the bronze is the perfect pay-off.

A woman wearing yellow and white celebrates after lifting a weight
Hani Watson of Australia also captured a bronze medal in the women’s para powerlifting.(Getty Images: Al Bello)

“It can be exhausting, but it’s also very thrilling and very exciting at the same time,” she said.

“I feel old sometimes. I’m 39, about to turn 40, and this is epic. This is a great 40th birthday present to myself. It’s just nuts.”

Watson had been targeting a top-five finish and, after failing her second attempt at 125kg, she went all out on her last effort and lifted 127kg.

It was the “cherry on top” of her first Commonwealth Games experience, which has galvanised her in so many ways.

“As a kid growing up and wanting to be an elite athlete, I couldn’t do that because I had a disability and it wasn’t introduced into the right areas,” she said.

But then it sunk in when I was at the opening ceremony to come out and to see everyone cheer you on: their energy, it was overwhelming for me.

“I’m not just a potato at home bench-pressing. This is real. This is epic.”

And Watson has a warning for the world: she’s only getting started.

“I told you Australia was coming. And now we’re coming in 2024, we’re gonna get gold for Paris [2024 Paralympics].

Meanwhile, Australia’s Ben Wright was fourth in the men’s heavyweight division.

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