Jamie Stead: MBE for Normanton's Great Britain wheelchair rugby hero who won Paralympic Gold in Tokyo

West Yorkshire wheelchair rugby star Jamie Stead was “blown away” by receiving an MBE in the New Year’s honours.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 31st December 2021, 10:30 pm
Jamie Stead MBE. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Jamie Stead MBE. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Stead, 28, from Normanton, was a member of the Great Britain team who won gold in the wheelchair rugby at this year’s Paralympics in Tokyo, beating the United States 54-49 in a thrilling final.

Born with cerebral palsy, he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete and tried a number of sports before settling on his current code.

Since making his international debut at the Canada Cup in 2014, he has gone on to become a key member of the Great Britain team and is regarded as one of the world’s best players.

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Jamie Stead, right, in action for Great Britain against Canada at the Paralympics in Tokyo. Picture by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

At club level, he captains Leicester Tigers and has led them to two league titles, but admitted the MBE - for services to wheelchair rugby - was a shock.

“I got home from training and my mum had put the letter on my bed,” he recalled.

“I saw ‘Her Majesty’s Service’ and I wondered what this could be.

“I got a letter from Boris [Johnson] the month before congratulating us on winning the gold medal, but I wasn’t expecting an MBE.

“When I opened it I was blown away, I couldn’t believe it.”

This year’s Paralympic success made up for 2016, when Great Britain failed to get among the medals.

“We went unfunded after Rio,” Stead pointed out.

“We lost our funding as a sport from UK Sport and the National Lottery.

“We felt a bit unrecognised, after we came fifth in Rio.

“We just missed out on the semi-finals by a point, but now we have won gold and we are getting recognition and the sport’s getting recognition, it is great.

“Hopefully the more the sport gets recognised, the more people get involved.

“That’s what we wanted to do going into Tokyo as a team; we had a team mantra that we wanted to create a legacy and obviously winning gold and now getting the MBEs can inspire future athletes and children with disabilities to get involved.”

Inspiring others is a huge motivation for Stead.

“When I was a child I wanted to be a professional athlete,” he said.

“Watching people at the Paralympics inspired me and gave me the encouragement to go on and do it.

“What I and the rest of the team hope is the more we get recognised, the more it becomes an even playing field for disability sports and they get the same recognition.

“That will encourage people with disabilities to realise that, even though they have a disability, they can still go out and achieve their dreams and do something great.”

The honour is a reward for the staggering amount of work Stead puts into his sport.

Tigers are the closest Division One team to his home and he trains in Leicester once every week.

“The Leicester Tigers put a club training session on in Sheffield so we train there two to three times a week,” he added.

“I do four gym sessions a week, two swims and have all my GB training on top of that, camps and tournaments.

“We still train as hard as Olympians, if not harder, because we have to adapt to our disability and work out ways we can do things and ways to develop, which makes it even more of a challenge.”