World number three Paralympian judo star Chris Skelley has received his MBE for services to the sport from Prince Charles.
He described the investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle as "...one of the best experiences of my life so far."
The athlete won gold in judo at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 - postponed until 2021 - and is aiming to qualify for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. He has just secured another gold at the major tournament in Brazil.
He is registered blind and has ocular albinism, a rare genetic disorder caused by the inability of the pigment cells in the eyes to produce normal amounts of pigment.
This results in visual disturbances such as blurred vision, difficulty with perceiving depth of field and sensitivity to bright lights.
Chris began participating in judo when he was five years old and says it helped get him through the most difficult and challenging period of his life, which came when he was diagnosed with his condition at 19.
He said: “Judo has always been with me. It’s been my constant throughout everything and I feel that I owe so much to the sport. To be honoured for it in such an amazing way is simply extraordinary and incredibly humbling.
"I don’t think it had properly sunk in until now that this was actually happening however now we’ve had the ceremony, it seems a lot more real!”
Chris attended the ceremony at Windsor Castle with his fiancé Louise Hunt, who is herself one of the UK’s most successful Paralympians, having excelled in professional tennis and being named in the top 10 in the world at the high point of her competitive career. The couple are to be married in September.
Chris said: “To be there with Louise and share the experience with her was just wonderful. We were both nervous but also just so excited about the ceremony and the honour itself. It’s a memory we’ll carry with us forever.”
At the ceremony, the Prince asked Chris about his judo career, his sight loss and his future plans. He also spoke of his pride at Chris’s achievements and wished him luck for the next stage of his career and his life.
Chris added: "It was actually really emotional and made me reflect on my journey so far. I’ve made so many sacrifices over the years and missed out on so much to carry on training, to put judo first and always push myself that little bit further in order to do well, and you become very aware of how much you have to focus almost to the exclusion of everything else.
"Along with winning the gold at Tokyo 2020, moments like this really encapsulate all that hard work, and it’s humbling to be acknowledged for that level of dedication.
"It’s symbolic of everything I have been through up until this point and makes it feels like it was all worth it.”
After the ceremony Chris and Louise celebrated with family and friends, but Chris was back to training the following day at the British Judo Olympic and Paralympic National Training Centre in Walsall, where he has been training since 2013.
More information about Chris can be found at https://www.chrisskelley.co.uk
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