A Highland youngster who achieved a black belt in karate before being struck down with leukaemia is preparing to get back on the mat – this time in a wheelchair.
Vilis Fortsmanis, 14, who lives in Inverness, competed in the Commonwealth Karate Games last year – and says he’s determined to reach the same heights as a para karate athlete.
After practising for seven years with Merkinch Karate Club, he achieved black belt status and last year competed in the prestigious Commonwealth Karate Games in Birmingham.
But two weeks later, he was diagnosed with leukaemia after suffering headaches and pain in his legs.
Vilis was rushed to hospital and at one point was put into an induced coma after his heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated.
Vilis said: “My headaches didn’t go away and that could have been a sign that I was going to be diagnosed soon, but even then I still went to karate.
“I went to the Commonwealth and I got diagnosed soon after. Then I had to go through a hard time.”
As part of his recovery, Vilis even practised karate in his hospital ward. But his gruelling treatment has left his legs weakened and sore.
Now he is preparing to return to the sport – this time as a para athlete, competing in a wheelchair.
He’s set to take part in a number of competitions over the next month in Ravenscraig, where he will perform Kata – a complex pattern of martial arts movements that are practised alone.
Vilis is still undergoing chemotherapy and hopes that soon he will be back fighting again and aims to achieve the highest honours in the sport that he loves.
He said: “I have to use the wheelchair as my mobility so the wheels are my legs basically for now – so I have to think more about my hands.”
Throughout his ordeal Vilis and his parents have been supported by the Karate Alba Federation – and said Sensei Dolina Ross has become like family.
Dolina said: “Everyone thought – how could this happen to such an amazing young athlete with such potential for the future, but that hasn’t been taken from him – he’s still got it, and we are so proud of him.”
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