Olympian Roger Black meets aspiring athlete after both faced heart disease battle

19 June 2018        

Category: Fundraising

Olympic and World Champion runner and British Heart Foundation (BHF) Ambassador Roger Black MBE met a young athletics champion at a Guildford athletics track on Thursday 7 June. The two have more than just athletics in common - both were born with congenital heart disease, but have defied the odds to pursue their dreams.

Roger Black MBE and Luke Ball size each other up on the start line

South Gloucestershire resident Luke Ball, 13, who trains with Yate & District Athletic Club, is one of the current leading UK under-15 athletes in high jump, and last season ranked in the UK top 3 in his age group in four different athletic events.   He met his athletics hero in support of our Face a Fear campaign, which encourages people to be fearless and conquer their biggest fear by the end of July to raise money for the our life saving research.

Both were born with congenital heart disease, but have defied the odds to pursue their dreams

Roger, 52, and Luke were both born with congenital heart disease, where a heart condition or a defect develops in the womb.  Every day, 12 babies are diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and it can be potentially life-threatening.

Luke was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries, where the arteries are plumbed the wrong way round and was operated on at just 12 weeks old. Roger was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition when he was 11 after it caused one of his heart valves to leak, and couldn’t take part in competitive sport until he was 13. Roger’s condition was closely monitored and he only ever missed one of his annual hospital appointments to go to the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, where he went on to win a silver medal.

Roger Black and Luke Ball running on an athletics track

"I’ve never let my heart condition hold me back"

Roger Black MBE, said: “It was fantastic to meet a fearless young athlete like Luke. I’ve never let my heart condition hold me back and it’s great to see that he isn’t either. I’m proud to be a British Heart Foundation Ambassador and their research helps people like Luke and myself lead a fit and healthy life, ultimately enabling us to pursue our dreams to become athletes. That’s why I’m supporting the BHF’s latest fundraising campaign ‘Face a Fear’ to encourage others to face up to what they’re scared of and raise money for the charity’s lifesaving research."

Luke said: “Even though I have a heart condition I don’t see myself as any different to any of my athletic competitors and I’m just as determined to be successful. I take advice from my doctors at my annual heart check-ups and, although I may have to have further surgery in the future, I don’t let this hold me back. It was awesome to meet a track legend like Roger and to see his Olympic medal. I hope one day I will have one myself!”

Luke Ball and Roger Black compare athletics medals

Be fearless

Both Roger and Luke were told at one point that they may not be able to do strenuous physical activity. But they’ve been fearless in proving people wrong. This July, the BHF is challenging everyone to be fearless. By taking part in Face a Fear and conquering your phobia by the end of July, you will help power ground-breaking research to bring new hope to the seven million people living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK.

Sign up to Face a Fear