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Home > News > Blogs > Voices from the Spectrum > Rhys' Story

Rhys' Story

Scottish Autism

Rhys McCole, who is 14 years old, from Greenock is a competitive boxer with multiple disabilities. He also suffers from six debilitating conditions including multiple holes in his heart. Rhys has defied all the odds to win the Western District Boxing Championship, and most recently was called up to Boxing Scotland’s International "Emerging Talent Squad". To cement that dedication to his chosen Sport, Rhys just became Scotland’s 48kg Champion, a national title. He also has autism, learning difficulties, and asthma but showed incredible fighting spirit to triumph at these competitions. He took on fierce competition to win both gold medals in the 2001 schoolboy’s categories.

Rhys said: “I am thankful to be given the opportunity to compete and also very lucky to be able to. Sometimes I find certain things difficult but I just keep trying hard till I get there in the end. I hope others will give boxing a try as it is very rewarding.”

Rhys trains at Greenock Boxing Club and is coached by Team Scotland’s Danny Lee — Rhys’ achievements are even more remarkable given his health battles. His full-time carer James Houten said: “Rhys has had a long, hard journey, but I couldn’t be more proud of his dedication, and his medal wins are a fantastic tribute to that. From an early age Rhys would pass the boxing club at the top of the street almost every day on his way to nursery and school, and partly because of the heightened senses that can come with autism, he was fascinated by the sounds coming out of the place. He would ask what was going on inside, but as there was no way to see, we eventually took him in at eight years old. Rhys asked if he could join, and they told him he would have to wait two years. He was desperate to start but waited for his chance. We discovered he had a natural talent for it. The routine and structure of the sport was perfect for helping his autism. The cardiologist at Yorkhill also advised that his heart would grow stronger and gave him the all clear. Rhys used to be in and out of hospital all the time, but that’s all changed now. What’s really overwhelmed me though has been the huge support and encouragement that the other boxers and Boxing Scotland have given him. It’s completely changed his life.”

Rhys who trains five nights a week said: “I enjoy training and it helps quite a lot with my breathing and asthma. Boxing is a good thing to do and it keeps me busy. My target is just to do my best in every fight and see how I get on. It feels really good to be treated like everybody else — you get trained the same as everyone and they don’t look at me in a different way.”

Rhys would like to thank Scottish Autism, Greenock Boxing Club, Boxing Scotland, all his team mates and Commando X Fit for the help, support and training.