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Jonathan's proud family: 'It's worth the sacrifices'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 03, 2012

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It was a quick verdict quietly and succinctly delivered, but it changed the course of Jonathan Fox's life.

The wirey ten-year-old had just plunged into the water at a swimming club for the disabled which his parents had travelled across two counties from their home in Cornwall to reach.

After a few strokes, the coach nodded and spoke. "He just said, 'yes, he's got it'," said Jonathan's father, Eric. "And that was that."

Nearly a dozen years later and that early predication has come true for Jonathan, who has cerebral palsy. Last Thursday, at the London 2012 Paralympics, he beat his own world records in the heats of the S7 100 metres backstroke. Then, in a thrilling final, he powered to victory, clinching the UK's first gold medal of the games.

Within a day, the Royal Mail had painted a post box in his home village of St Stephen, in Clay Country, a sparkling gold in honour of the astonishing achievement. With stamps also due to bear the 21-year-old swimmer's face, his father, mother Mary, and brother Frazer are rightly proud of his achievement.

As they relaxed at their London hotel ahead of more races today, tomorrow and Thursday – with the very real prospect of further medals to come – they took stock of Jonathan's journey to the podium.

Born with cerebral palsy, the youngster first started swimming as a simple therapy, said Eric.

"His right side was weaker than his left, so his physiotherapist recommended swimming," he explained.

"Jonathan enjoyed it so much that it just carried on from there. He started at St Austell swimming club, which was an able-bodied club. Then we found out about the nearest disabled swimming club, which was in Cheddar in Somerset.

"We took him one weekend when he was ten and that's where the coach saw him."

After that, Jonathan joined the Newquay Cormorants, which brought him under the expert guidance of coach Phil Goldman.

However, developing his potential has been a family-wide endeavour.

"Jonathan was training at Newquay, which meant getting up at 5am and driving him to be in the pool at 6am," said Eric. "He would swim until 8am, then change for school and be in class for 8.30am.

"After he finished school, he would come home, have something for tea and then be back in the pool and home at about 10pm. His only day off was Thursday."

The arduous schedule was supplemented by extra training sessions in a 50 metre pool, with the nearest being at a public school in Somerset.

But the years of relentless training have paid off in so many ways, said his father.

"Swimming is Jonathan's life. It is the person he is and it has made him strong as an individual.

"He has cerebral palsy and we didn't know what the future held for him, but swimming has given him everything.

"He has swum on four continents and it's the best job in the world."

He continued: "Jonathan has been very dedicated. Barring minor illnesses, he never missed a training session, which was on top of all his school work.

"It has been a sacrifice for him and for the whole family, I know Jonathan would agree with that. He has had to make sacrifices and wasn't able to cut loose like a lot of teenagers do. But at the end of the day, when he lifted that gold medal, it was all worth it."

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