Born nine and a half weeks premature, Jonathan Adams was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy at the age of 18 months. Despite his condition and gruelling surgical procedures to help counteract some of the symptoms – including operations to have his left leg completely broken and reset that left him unable to walk unaided for a long time – Jonathan won two silvers at the 2011 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Junior Championships in shotput and discus. A year later, he represented Team GB in front of an 80,000-strong crowd at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, this time in the F34 shot put.
Growing up with such a severe condition brought significant physical and psychological challenges, but it was in sport that Jonathan often found comfort. “From a very early age, running brought me peace and solace,” he explains, “a place where, even though I would fall over, I could escape the struggles of being a disabled person in an able-bodied society.”
It was at the Norfolk Youth Games while in primary school, that Jonathan found his true calling. “I was taken along by an NHS physiotherapist to try a variety of activities to help me deal with the depression and anger I felt about my disability. I tried running and jumping and then took part in a cricket ball throwing activity. I was hooked.”
Despite his bright start in elite sport, Jonathan faced a series of setbacks in 2013, including changes in Paralympic classification rules that forced him to become a standing thrower and splint malfunctions that left him with a severe tendinitis injury, the loss of funding and his dreams of reaching Rio shattered.
But Jonathan is nothing if not determined and approached LOC this year to see if its orthotic expertise could help him kick start a new chapter in his sporting career. Working with LOC clinician David Williams, Jonathan is now trialling a brand new bespoke carbon orthotic specifically designed to support him as a standing thrower. By creating an orthotic that provides the physical stability that he needs, Jonathan hopes it will give him renewed confidence to help him take his performances to the level he expects of himself.
“It’s not always the most talented athletes who prevail,” he says, “but those who have the mental strength to withstand the challenges that they encounter. Since returning to sport, I’ve not had a good psychological state of mind – my disability has a catastrophic effect on my ability to achieve the level I believe I’m capable of. My hope is that the new orthotic will not only allow me to compete, but will give me the mental confidence and toughness I need to make me a stronger athlete. It would prove that my resilience and the fight against the odds was worth it.”
Jonathan had his first fitting at LOC’s clinic in Kingston in August and while he and his parents were apprehensive, initial indications suggest the future looks positive.
“Seeing Jonathan stand up straight was a first for us – he was so tall!’ says his father, Robert Adams. “It was a joy to watch him walk tall and proud and straight. And, then, to see him put all his weight on his left leg and stand on it was so amazing. It made Sharon cry and I had a lump in my throat. But, the look on Jonathan’s face – his smile – said it all. Jonathan is so dedicated to his sport, which is why he is trying so hard to prove to himself and others that he can do this.”
For Jonathan, the fitting was one of mixed emotions: “There was relief, but also apprehension. Elite sport always bring uncertainty and over the years there has been a lot of discussion and confusion about how best to support my leg to enhance my throwing capacity. Putting your trust in a new orthotic is always difficult as well. That will come with time and training in the gym where I can push myself during throwing drills. My throwing technique is going to need a complete overhaul, but my early feeling is that this new brace will give me the capacity to throw in a fashion that previously wasn’t possible. That is the most exciting proposition for me.”
London Orthotics Gait Lab video showing Jonathan Adams practicing his shot put technique wearing a new bespoke orthotic. The video is overlaid with the biomechanical forces registered on each foot enabling our orthotists to understand the forces involved to help in the development of an entirely bespoke orthotic for Jonathan.
Django Fung is Jonathan’s agent and echoes Jonathan’s quiet optimism: “I think the first fitting went very well. Of course, there are things that need to be adjusted and improved upon, but we will work on that as a team. Jonathan is a fighter with great ability supported by a great, loving family. He will be relishing the challenge to make this device work for him.”
It’s early days yet, but Jonathan has his sights firmly set on the IPC World Athletics Championships in London in 2017 and, beyond that, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. And, it’s clear from talking to him that teamwork will be crucial to any future success. “The World Championships is just one small piece of the four-year puzzle to reaching Tokyo 2020. The orthotic can perform as best as it is designed, but it will be my throwing and physical mechanics that ultimately defines whether I can make the device work for my technique. That is a very exciting challenge. When you’ve had success in the past, the question is always about how you can get back there. With the support of LOC and a new coach I believe that’s possible. The future is certainly looking bright for Team Adams.”
LOC will continue to work with Jonathan over the coming months, so look out for updates on his progress towards the World Championships. We also offer a wide range of orthotic treatments for sports injuries and sporting performance – contact LOC to find out more.