By David Williams
Welsh, British and worldwide Paralympians have shared tributes to Jacob Thomas, Wales’ Paralympic boccia player who has died at the age of 25.
The Pembrokeshire athlete competed at the London 2012 Games in the BC3 category, and reached the top of his sport during the 2015-2016 season when he became number one in the world.
Thomas won silver and bronze medals at the World Championships in 2014 and also achieved podium finishes at the European Championships.
He won the British title four times before retiring from the sport four years ago.
Thomas, from Bethesda, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy shortly after birth, a severe neuromuscular disorder that confined him to a wheelchair but failed to limit his sporting ambition.
He took up boccia – a sport where competitors throw, kick or use a ramp to propel a ball on to the court with the aim of getting closest to the jack.
With the assistance on court of his father Michael, Thomas quickly became an elite performer and competing in boccia’s BC3 classification he was a gold medallist at the World Student Games in Brazil, took a pairs’ bronze at the European Championships, and bronze and silver in the World Championships in Beijing.
The British Paralympic Association (BPA) were among those to pay tribute to Thomas and the organisation said: “The British Paralympic Association is greatly saddened to hear of the passing of boccia player and London 2012 Paralympian Jacob Thomas.
“The BPA joins Boccia UK and numerous others from around the world in sending our heartfelt condolences to Jacob’s family and friends at this terribly sad time.”
Disability Sport Wales also paid tribute on social media, saying: “Jacob Thomas was a totally inspirational young man and Paralympic boccia player.
“So many in the DSW (Disability Sport Wales) family were saddened to hear of his passing.”
— Disability Sport Wales (@dsw_news) August 17, 2020
Thomas came up against his hero Grigorios Polychronidis at the London Paralympics eight years ago and the Greek player paid tribute to his rival on social media, saying: “You were one of the greatest boccia players and most importantly you were a true gentleman.
“We shared a lot of special moments and matches together. I will always remember the exhibition match we had in Athens, and how excited we both were that we had the opportunity to promote boccia.
“That is where we became true friends. “You will be always remembered by the boccia community.”
In a post on social media, Sport Wales described Thomas as an “inspirational sportsperson who will be hugely missed”.
Jacob’s father Michael told the Western Telegraph, “Jacob touched so many lives and we have had so many messages.
“As a family, we would like to thank everyone for supporting us at this difficult time.”