Lindfield resident’s grandson Chris Skelley wins judo gold medal at Tokyo Paralympics

A Lindfield grandmother was overjoyed to see her grandson win a Paralympics gold medal in judo recently.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 4:30 pm
Updated Monday, 6th September 2021, 4:42 pm

Visually-impaired martial artist Chris Skelley, 28, faced off against Benjamin Goodrich in Tokyo on Sunday (August 29).

Penny Skelley, 79, of Grey Alders, stayed up all night to watch Chris triumph in the fight live on television.

“We first thought he’d fight at 2.30am but actually the time went on,” said Penny, adding that it was almost 10am before his match took place.

Penny Skelley, the grandmother of the Judo gold medal Paralympian Chris Skelley. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2109061.

“Just as I was walking away from Channel 4 I heard Clare Balding say ‘if you want to see Chris Skelley’s final fight it’s on More 4’.”

So Penny switched over and caught the action, saying that she almost cried with joy at Chris’s victory.

“I was absolutely thrilled and so pleased for him because he didn’t ‘medal’ in Rio,” she said, adding that Chris missed securing a bronze in 2016.

“I didn’t know until really quite recently how much it mattered to him,” Penny said.

Penny Skelley, the grandmother of the Judo gold medal Paralympian Chris Skelley. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2109061.

“And of course winning the gold this time was just the ultimate for him.”

Penny said Chris phoned her about an hour and a half after the fight and sounded proud and excited to have won.

She said she celebrated all day, having put up some bunting for Chris with a golden rose placed next to a photo of him.

The picture, she said, shows her and Chris in Portugal in 2020 where she watched him qualify for the Paralympic Games just before the Covid pandemic hit.

She said she also hung a large Union Jack beach towel on the garage.

Chris is now back in the country and Penny said she had spoken further with him on Skype since his win.

She also watched his appearance on BBC Look North and his appearance on Come Dine With Me earlier this month, and said Chris plans to come down to Lindfield to see her in person soon.

Penny said Chris had devoted himself to judo since he was about 18, having previously played rugby before his eyesight began to deteriorate.

Having been diagnosed with oculartanious albinism, Chris could not work as a mechanic anymore either and had to stop his apprenticeship.

But he moved to Walsall to train full time at the British Judo Centre of Excellence and since then he has been crowned European Champion and won two World Championship bronze medals.

He has been the world’s number one in the -100kg category since 2019 as well.

Penny said Chris’s determination to overcome his visual impairment is ‘absolutely marvellous’.

“I think the same about all the Paralympians,” she said. “People are praising them and so they should.”

“I’m sure all the families are as proud as I am,” she added, saying that there has been an extra year of training and hard work for the athletes because the pandemic delayed the Games for so long.

She said she has lived in Sussex for about five years, but Christopher’s mother lives in Hull while Christopher trains and lives in Walsall.

Chris is going to continue competing in the Paralympics, said Penny, and plans to go to Paris in 2024.

Eventually he wants to start coaching and he is marrying his girlfriend next year.

“He’s got an agent already and he’s going to be well sponsored because he’s so agreeable and has a wonderful personality,” said Penny.

“All the family adore him,” she added.

“And I’ve had some lovely messages from people, some of whom I don’t even know.”