Fiona Scott Media Consultanccy

Paralympic gold medallist, Chris Hunt Skelley, has won a lifetime achievement award at the Disability Sport Yorkshire Awards.

The awards, which are run by the Yorkshire Sport Foundation, were announced at a black-tie event held at Leeds United’s home ground, Elland Road, on 1 March. The event saw 11 award presentations in total to celebrate achievements across disabled sport in Yorkshire, with Chris (30) taking home the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Chris, who is originally from Yorkshire and the Humber, says he was thrilled to attend the awards dinner in Leeds earlier this month and to be awarded the honour.

“It was wonderful to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Disability Sport Yorkshire Awards and I’m grateful to the Yorkshire Sport Foundation for awarding it to me,” said Chris. “I work hard at judo because I love it and because it is a privilege to represent our great country nationally and internationally. To be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from a foundation that does so much to promote inclusion in sport is a real joy and I’d like to thank the Foundation for the honour.”

Chris won gold at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo and is on track to represent Great Britain at the Paralympic Games in Paris later this year. He’s also been named as one of five Paralympic ambassadors for Path to Paris, an initiative set up by Get Set, the official youth engagement programme from Team GB and Paralympics GB, and he has previously been named as a top ten sports personality on the Disability Power 100 List. He was awarded an MBE in 2022. 

The Yorkshire Sport Foundation, which runs the Disability Sport Yorkshire Awards, is part of a network of 43 Sport England National Lottery-funded organisations in England responsible for connecting and influencing providers of sport and physical activity to increase the number and quality of opportunities for participation. The organisation promotes inclusivity in sport and works across the region to facilitate education around sport and access to physical activities for all groups. Chris says this is essential to encourage better inclusion across all sports and physical activity and is himself an example of the positive effect that getting involved in sport can have on a person’s life.

“No one should feel like they are locked out of an activity or a sporting ambition or that they might not be welcome because they have to navigate a particular condition or disability,” says Chris. “It’s no exaggeration to say that judo has seen me through some of the most difficult and challenging times of my life and I owe so much to the sport that I really don’t know where I’d be without it. No one should feel a barrier to something that can bring so much good to their lives.”

Chris is registered blind and lives with ocular albinism, a rare genetic condition caused by the inability of pigment cells in the eyes to produce normal amounts of pigment, resulting in visual disturbances such as blurred vision, difficulty with perceiving depth of field and sensitivity to bright lights. After repeatedly being told there was nothing wrong with him, he finally received a diagnosis at the age of 19 when he travelled to the US to undergo intense testing of all his physical systems. He first took up judo at the age of 5 and has been dedicated to the sport ever since, taking the gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020. He credits judo with putting him on a path to success and says that moments like award wins give him the opportunity to see his achievements in a broader context.

“I’ve made huge sacrifices over the years and missed out on a lot to carry on training. Putting judo first and always pushing myself further to do well is part of the discipline and you necessarily become very single-minded with your focus. Recognition such as receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Disability Sport Yorkshire Awards feels a bit like coming up for air and I am so grateful for the acknowledgement of success, as well as being able to show others living with disabilities that you can become exceptional in your chosen field and that you don’t have to be held back because of the challenges you face. It’s a really important message to get out there.”

Chris is also the winner of the UK Social Impact Award and is a sought-after speaker on the subjects of building resilience, living with a disability and being a team player, as well as his own personal journey to becoming an elite athlete.

*Image shows Chris Hunt Skelley MBE with his award. Photograph by Steve Biltcliffe Photography. 

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