Local cruise company sponsors Wroughton-based Paralympian ahead of World Championships

By Jessica Durston - 3 October 2022

  • Chris Hunt Skelley MBE PLY with Robin Deller, CEO of Imagine Cruising

    Chris Hunt Skelley MBE PLY with Robin Deller, CEO of Imagine Cruising

Judo Paralympian Chris Hunt Skelley MBE PLY has received a funding boost ahead of the Judo World Championships with a sponsorship deal with Imagine Cruising.

Chris is the current world number 1 in his weight class (+90kg) and Paralympic champion, winning gold in the Tokyo 2020 games.

His most recent success came in Brazil in the Sao Paulo IBSA Grand Prix, where he won gold.

Following his win in Brazil, Skelley will compete in the World Judo Visually Impaired Championships in Azerbaijan which take place in November. These championships are the first of the qualifying events for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

Chris said: “It’s an important moment in my overall competitive ambitions and, now that I’m home from Brazil, I’m keen to get back to training so that I can start to prepare for November.

“I am really grateful for the support shown by Imagine Cruising. Their sponsorship will help me to realise my ambitions to go Azerbaijan and to perform to my best at the World Championships with the longer-term goal of qualifying for Paris in 2024. It means so much to me.”

Swindon-based Imagine Cruising was launched in 2011 by Robin Deller and Natalie Maye. With a small team, the founders said they wanted to introduce something ‘genuinely different’ to the world of cruising, offering new holiday opportunities to more people. 

The company now pairs cruises with immersive tours, so that rather than simply flying to a country to set off on a cruise, customers will get to see and experience that destination country as well. The pairing is said to have been a success with the company now operating in five countries, with more than 250 staff, sending more than 50,000 people on cruise holidays worldwide every year.

Robin Deller, CEO of Imagine Cruising said: “We’re really happy to be sponsoring Chris and to help him compete in the World Championships and beyond. We felt that it was an important opportunity to support a world-class local athlete and to play a part in his journey to the next Paralympics.”

Chris Hunt Skelley is registered blind. He started his judo journey when he was five years old, and found a career in rugby seemed likely until he experienced sight loss as a teenager.

Following intense testing he was diagnosed with ocular albinism at the age of 19. This is a genetic condition which  includes the photophobia and blurred vision symptoms he had been living with all his life. He says judo kept him going as he came to terms with being registered blind. 

Robin Deller added: “The team here at Imagine Cruising are inspired by athletes like Chris who empower others to be all that they can be and we admire his determination to be among the best Paralympians in the world in his sport.” 

Chris has been training at the British Judo Olympic and Paralympic National Training Centre in Walsall since 2013 and trains for up to four sessions per day, at least five days a week.

He was presented with his MBE earlier this year by HRH Prince Charles for services to judo at a ceremony at Windsor Castle.

Chris divides his time between Walsall and Wroughton, where he lives with his fiancée Louise Hunt PLY. To find out more about him, individuals can visit https://www.chrisskelley.co.uk

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