Belfast Telegraph

Tipped as future Olympian, young athlete veered so badly off track due to booze he nearly ended up in prison

BY CLAIRE GRAHAM

He was tipped as a future Olympian.

But instead of preparing for Rio 2016, Adam Ingram's athletic career lies in tatters, his life blighted by a criminal record.

The former champion runner was convicted in court this week of charges including concealing three knives between his buttocks.

He was given a suspended jail sentence by the judge.

Professionals and fans alike believe talented Ingram had a bright future in the athletics world, with record-breaking times from a young age.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, his father told of his talents before it all went wrong.

"Yes, he was a fantastic runner – but that's it," he said.

"It's down to drink, I'm afraid. It's just one of those things."

The 20-year-old, who studied at Hazelwood Integrated College in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, has been described as "the life and soul of the party", and was often spotted out and about in the city.

Popular and loved by his group of friends, just two summers ago he was holidaying in Portugal, larking about in the swimming pool where he practised his diving technique.

This week, not long after his birthday, he appeared in court to face a number of charges.

Prosecutors told Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday that Ingram, of Deacon Street in the city, was arrested and searched on March 29 and three knives were discovered secreted between his buttocks.

The runner also admitted separate offences of defecating in a police cell and stealing a car in February.

Earlier this year, writing on his Facebook profile, friends pleaded with him to stay "off the drink".

It had seemed Ingram was trying to get his life back on track and was tackling his problem with alcohol misuse.

Updating his status on the networking site, he said he had barely drunk alcohol for two months when he was trying to find a party to attend.

Just five days later he was found with the three blades in a public place.

Defence lawyer Seamus Leonard set out how Ingram's problems were linked to a family bereavement and drugs issues. The court heard Ingram was part of Irish training camps, held an 800 metres record at his level, and been under consideration for a future major championship.

"As for the knives – they were brought in the city centre and he can't explain that at all," Mr Leonard told the court.

"They are linked to drug and alcohol consumption."

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson, who knows the athlete, said he was personally hurt to see the north Belfast sportsman withdraw from the sport.

He added: "He was going to be a star before he went off the rails.

"When I met him, each time I told him: 'You have bright future'.

"He could have been in the Olympics – I'm convinced he would have been in Rio 2016, if not London 2012 for Great Britain.

"He had that opportunity, there's no doubt about it.

Mr Hutchinson said in Ingram's younger years, the record-breaking times he was running were "out of this world".

"We wanted to promote those in the Tigers Bay with bright futures and incredible talent," he added.

"We wanted to put him forward as a role model. He was being recognised as someone who shines in the community.

"That was a God-given talent, but like those who went before him – footballers George Best and Keith Gillespie, who struggled with a gambling problem – there can be challenges. He could have made it."

According to a Cruse Bereavement Care spokeswoman, the grief and stress of losing a loved one can lead to an increased intake of alcohol or drugs.

She explained: "You may feel this will dull the pain temporarily, but it is important to seek help if you repeatedly turn to alcohol or drugs to cope.

"It is common to have some or all of these feelings after a disaster and you may experience them immediately or some time later. The feelings can be very strong and frightening, especially if a death was sudden or violent, or if a body was not recovered, or if many people died.

"It can feel as if you are losing control or 'going mad', but for most people the feelings become less intense over time. Many people find that crying can give relief but it is also common to experience other responses, such as a desire to be alone."

Holywood hurdler, 22-year-old Ben Reynolds, is another of Northern Ireland's rising athletes. The Co Down man had to withdraw from this year's World Championships in Moscow within weeks of the competition beginning.

Speaking yesterday, Ben said there's no doubt Ingram's fast times stood out.

He added: "He ran the 800m and his times would be quick.

"I love when local athletes are doing well and he would have been one that stood out.

"Talent is always there and that means there's always the potential to turn it around. Think of Team GB's Andy Turner. He got back into training in his late 20s and went on to win medals. He even went on to be European Champion."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph