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UK Athletics

adams ready to continue fight 

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Jonathan Adams
14 January 2015 

To say it’s been a whirlwind of a journey in Jonathan Adams’ (coach: Jim Edwards) quest to be one of the world’s best Paralympic shot putters would be an understatement.

Born 9 ½ weeks premature would have worried any parent, but Adams has grown up undeterred by any challenge or situation that has been thrown at him, showing that he is a fighter in every sense of the word. 

Adams explains: “I feel guilty because my mum and dad were both semi-professional body builders and doing really well. When my mum had the traumatic pregnancy, she had to put everything on hold. I’d always liked to have seen what they could have become in their sport, but it was difficult and it still is now for us. Anything that concerns my disability, my family get quite protective and worried, whereas for me unless something is alarmingly bad, I don’t really batter an eyelid.

“However, their dedication to performance and sport it's help make me stronger and push through the barriers that have faced me especially during the period of my major surgery in London from 2006-10 where I had my left leg completely broken and reset without people supporting me and having the drive and desire to come back stronger I wouldn't have paved the way for myself to experience some life changing moments.”

The Bury St Edmunds-born athlete has endured countless operations to combat his cerebral palsy along with therapy sessions, which in turn contributed to a difficult period at school.

“It (cerebral palsy) affected me from day one really. I wasn’t able to walk, talk and had to have intensive speech therapy at the child development centre in Bury St Edmunds. I was in their system for a long time and having all sorts of procedures and it was horrible.

“I used to get bullied a lot especially in secondary school. In primary school, people were well established with how I was and they embraced it and pushed me around in my wheelchair. It took pressure off me and made me feel like I had people there to support me. As I got older, it got difficult – I felt I was confounded by my disability. Rather than giving me the ability to do things, I felt restricted by it. I felt angry by these people but I couldn’t do anything about it because all they’d have to do is tap me on the shoulder and I’d fall over.

“Trying to grow up with my disability with people that weren’t accepting of it was much more challenging than I expected it to be. It’s got a lot easier, but it’s still hard to accept I can’t do things because of my condition. I was on a nebuliser from reception having drugs pumped into me, had a learning support assistant 24/7 and physiotherapy three or four times a day. As I got older, I was starting to come to terms with how difficult life was knowing how deformed my legs were compared to other people you realise how bad it was. Due to that I didn’t feel like I could do anything in life and I’d be a vegetable, sit there and have people do everything for me.”

The treatment was an arduous process and it took a number of procedures to get nearer to the end goal. However, spending much of his childhood confined to a wheelchair, accepting the next steps was something which Adams had not really come to terms with. 

“First they started by cutting muscles and lengthening them before putting my foot in plaster to see if that resolved the problems I had with my leg. That worked for the period of time I had it, but it very quickly deteriorated and by then they realised it was a lot more serious. My leg gait got progressively worse and then I had a series of meetings with surgeons in London to see what could be done to benefit my life and prolong the prospect of me walking into my tender years of 20 plus.

“There was a time where I thought I’d be confined to my wheelchair and was almost resigned to it. There was an opportunity to have my legs broken, turned round and set back together but I wasn’t really sold on the idea because I’d adjusted to life as a disabled person. Some people would find that astonishing that I’d be able to walk but prefer to be in a wheelchair as I found comfort there. I was able to do everything other kids were doing just on four wheels.”

Fast forward to 2011, Adams had gone from surgery to competing on the elite stage for his country. In what was a remarkable turnaround from his final operation, the Loughborough-based athlete secured two silver medals at the IWAS World Junior Championships

Adams admitted that his performance even took him by surprise: “I was a bit shocked really because I’d only been training six months full-time because I had my last surgery in 2010. However, because my bones didn’t heal properly because of the severity of the operation we were unsure about what we were going to do.

“I sat down at the World Juniors because I could concentrate on what worked for my body in terms of my core and arms and not have to worry about the deformity of my legs. Just to be there was an achievement in itself but once it was over I thought it’s history now and let’s move on to the next one. Being in elite level sport you don’t want to live too much in the past because if you’re always thinking on what was good, you don’t concentrate on the here and now to make sure the future is better.”

A year later, he found himself in the circle at the Paralympic Games in front of 80,000 people and despite his high standards the result didn’t quite match his expectations, Adams was just grateful to be a part of what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest sporting occasions in his lifetime. 

“I put my trust in Jim Edwards and his philosophy and luckily managed to throw far enough to make London. Luckily, Peter Eriksson the Head Coach at the time saw something worthy of me to be picked, so I owe a debt of gratitude to him really. I don’t think I expected to finish where I did – there were so many question marks over whether I’d make it,” added Adams, who is in his final year at university studying Social Psychology.

“We all knew from the get go that it would be a long shot but I was that determined to be a part of it, I even bought tickets to my own event just in case I didn’t’ make it. That spurred me on even more because I had my training partner Dan West alongside me and his disability was identical to mine in terms of how we walked but my legs were more severe in terms of deformity and internal rotation.

“I was disappointed with the way I performed, because I had a good run at the World Cup in 2012 in Manchester where I came fifth which was promising. It was a really good experience and I’m thankful for the opportunity, but I think because I didn’t have any pressure on me apart from myself to the outside world 14th was very good. For me it wasn’t as good as I would have hoped for as I was hoping to PB or get near it but I’m a Paralympian and no one can take that away from me.”

Adams’ uplift in form continued in Swansea at the IPC European Championships last summer, and while he finished in fourth, he knows that his hard work and dedication will be rewarded with the IPC World Championships on the horizon.

“Whilst last year was good in terms of distance and performance, the end result that was I didn’t win a medal. There isn’t something that’s going to turn me into a world class shot putter overnight, but there is a process which you can go down that can help someone be in a better position than they are currently. I’m determined to prove my worth and do what I can to show I’m capable. It’s just a question of finding that loophole that’s ultimately going to make that difference between what I think of myself being an average thrower and a world class thrower.

“Whilst I maintain since London have definitely been my most challenging and lowest points in my career to date because of the effects to which my disability affects my throw and learning to adjust and rebuild around it it's not for me about how I fall it's about how I get up.”

“If I go out and conduct myself in the same manner as last season, giving 100% in every competition, that shows my initiative as an athlete that even in the face of challenges I’m willing to put the effort in and make the sacrifices.”

You can follow Jonathan with his progress on Twitter here