Thornbury boy inspired by Paralympic hero as he wins 11 medals

May 30 2022
Thornbury boy inspired by Paralympic hero as he wins 11 medals

A THORNBURY boy has brought home a haul of sports medals – and dreams of following in his hero’s footsteps at the Paralympics.

Ten-year-old Jacob Cliff won 11 medals at the National Dwarf Games, and met Paralympic swimming hero Ellie Simmonds while he was there.

He won five golds, five silvers and a bronze at the 29th annual event, which is aimed at allowing people with a dwarf condition to compete against people of similar abilities.

The event is run by the Dwarf Sports Association UK. One of their patrons is five-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist Ellie Simmonds OBE, who started her swimming career with the association.

Young athletes who do well at the games have the chance to follow in her footsteps and one day enter Paralympic sports.

And Jacob’s sporting success means he can afford to dream of one day competing for his country.

Mum Ellie Cliff said: "It’s too early to say if that will be for Jacob, but Ellie Simmonds gave out the medals and seeing her was a real inspiration.

"For the young children it is a social event and a lot of fun – but the older ones are keen to improve their personal bests."

Jacob Cliff and another competitor meet Ellie Simmonds at the Dwarf Sports Association UK's national championships

Jacob told the Voice he likes to try lots of sports and was very pleased to be able to take his medals to his school, Crossways Junior School in Thornbury, to show his friends.

He has a rare genetic condition called achondroplasia, which causes poor bone growth, resulting in shorter upper arms and thighs, and means his eight-year-old sister is already taller than him. 

Ellie said: “Jacob has always had a positive time through his life, but we know there can be some discrimination and people with dwarfism can be a figure of fun.

"It usually happens because it is a rare condition, and people are not used to seeing someone with it. 

"Jacob loves to have a go at anything, so his condition does not hold him back.”

Jacob won five gold medals for javelin, junior hockey, 25m breaststroke, 50m breaststroke and 25m backstroke; five silver for shot put, discus, junior basketball, junior football and 400m track cycling, and a bronze medal for New Age Kurling – a variety of curling played on a hard floor rather than ice.

The four-day National Dwarf Games took place in Walsall and Wolverhampton in May.

It was the first time the event has taken place since 2019 due to the pandemic, and the fifth time Jacob has competed, joining 186 athletes of all ages. 

Ellie said: “Not only is the National Dwarf Games an event for people with restricted growth to get a chance to compete at an equal level in a wide range of sports, but it is a great social weekend for families to meet up and support each other in a positive environment, where anything is achievable. “

Top picture: Jacob Cliff competes in the pool. Photo by Mark Corns