BUSINESS OF SPORT
Chris Skelley PLY MBE
Chris , 29 , was a star of the Paralympics at Tokyo 2020 when he won the gold medal in the 100kg Judo and he is still ranked no 1 in the world in his class . He has just won another gold medal at the Sao Paulo IBSA Grand Prix in Brazil and is training to qualify for Paris 2024 . Chris has a genetic condition , ocular albinism , and is registered blind . He ’ s engaged to Louise Hunt and divides his time between Wiltshire and training in Walsall . The couple are getting married in September .
“ For me the number one attribute that I think will carry me forward is discipline - the ability to put in the hard graft , the unseen work which goes on behind the scenes to get me where I need to be . The hours and hours in the gym to make those small advances which can be the difference between a medal and no medal .
“ Then there is the fact that I ’ m bloody determined . If someone tells me that I cannot do something , that it ’ s impossible , that spurs me on to do it . I ’ ll make it possible .
“ Then there is the need to be visible and to market myself . As a Paralympic athlete I get financial support from UK Sport yet I do need more income to maintain my career , travel around the world for competitions , cover the cost of kit and other hidden costs which enable my career to continue . Working with sponsors , I want them to feel that investing in me was a great decision for them . When I can I also work with schools , businesses and organisations to educate around diversity and inclusion for those with disability .”
Stephanie Millward MBE PLY
Stephanie , who is 40 , lives in Bradford On Avon and won two gold medals at Rio 2016 in swimming in the Paralympics and she ’ s taken many other medals and titles . Over the course of her career she competed in four Paralympic Games . Steph , who has MS , now works in finance for an engineering company alongside teaching swimming and has a voluntary role as a Deputy Lieutenant for Wiltshire .
“ After having a successful sporting career which came tumbling down due to my MS diagnosis , I realised if you want to do anything in life you have to do it for yourself . So I did as a Paralympian . This drive and determination stayed with me throughout my swimming career and again now as a businesswoman . I had the dream , the focus , the dedication for the Paralympic gold and now the drive to be successful in the other jobs I enjoy .
“ MS temporarily destroyed my life and my dreams but really , looking back , it just added a hurdle I had to find a new way of jumping over – and I was able to find solutions . In business there are often many challenges especially with the recent global pandemic .
Sport teaches the business community that through resilience , dedication and drive you can achieve and strive to be the best you can possibly be in any situation .
“ Teamwork is essential in all businesses and in elite sport . In my swimming world I had my coach , my gym coach , a nutritionist , many helpers and all the other swimmers who pushed everyone when exhausted in hard training sessions . A happy team is a productive team .
“ Finally I had to be exceptional at planning to enable my body to work , eat , exercise and rest in correct places and amounts . This planning still helps me now to work , do school visits , speeches , charity and other voluntary tasks I love doing .”
Top tips from top British athletes in your own backyard . Now that ’ s advice worth listening to …
THE BUSINESS EXCHANGE 2022 11