28 August 2021

Skelley takes scintillating judo gold as Stewart betters his dad with silver

Chris Skelley was in disbelief at becoming a Paralympic champion after an incredible performance saw him claim gold in the men’s -100kg judo.

Skelley, who has a visual impairment and is classified as a B2 athlete, finished a heart-breaking fifth in Rio five years ago, but made amends by beating American Ben Goodrich by waza-ari in the gold medal bout in Tokyo.

The World No.1, who beat Uzbekistan’s Sharif Khalilov in the quarter-final and Oliver Upmann of Germany in the semi-finals, both by ippon, trained as a mechanic earlier in his life and had to stop after his eyesight deteriorated but was able to turn his hobby of judo into his passion.

Skelley said: “I’m in disbelief! Eleven years ago, I was in the darkest part of my life because everything left me, and the only thing left was my judo.

Chris Skelley was emotional after fulfilling his dream of winning Paralympic gold

“I love cars and I love working on them and for it to be just whisked away… I never expected to do this as a job. It’s my hobby, I love it – I love it because I love judo and to stand here and talk to you now as a Paralympic champion, I’m lost for words.

“To have that come true today, I couldn’t believe it.

“To be honest, the final was an awful fight! It was just a dogged, horrible fight, and Ben Goodrich is a fantastic athlete and he’s pushed me all the way. I’m buzzing.

“It’s put a big target on my back now, so I need to get back and train even harder to stay where I am.”

Skelley will now turn his attention to his wedding, as he gets married to wheelchair tennis player Louise Hunt next year.

Chris Skelley fought hard to win his first Paralympic title

He added: “I can’t wait to see Louise - I’m going to give her a massive hug. I can’t wait to see my mum - I need a big mum hug now!

“It’s a shame they couldn’t be out here, but it was the right decision, and you know what, I’ll go home Paralympic champion. I think this is a dream!”

Moments before Skelley’s gold, ParalympicsGB teammate Elliot Stewart won the silver in the men’s -90kg class.

Stewart lost in the final to Iran’s Vahid Nouri but was able to manage one better than his dad, Dennis, who won judo bronze at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Elliot Stewart worked his way througha tricky draw to claim judo silver

Currently ranked fifth in the world, Stewart has world and European medals to his name – but it’s the Paralympic silver that firmly puts his name down in history.

“It went amazing,” said Stewart, who beat Uzbekistan’s Shukhrat Boboev and Oleksandr Nazarenko en route to the final. “I had some hard fights. I had a really tough draw, but I knew I’d done the work.

“I got bested in the final. He’s a really good opponent. I made a little bit of a mistake, but I’m pleased with my performance and pleased with my achievements.

“It’s a dream come true for me and for my dad. He’s always wanted me to do just as well as he has, even better, so I’m sure he will be super happy.”

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