DELIGHTED mum Jayne Kelly was “bursting with pride” after watching her son Gavin Walker claim Paralympics gold.
More than 20 friends and family gathered on Sunday morning to see the former firefighter jointly captain his country to victory over USA in the wheelchair rugby final in Tokyo.
It was the culmination of a remarkable 11-year journey from hospital bed to gold medal glory for 38-year-old Gavin, of Wickersley, who was paralysed from the chest down after a freak accident.
He described the victory as a “fairytale”, adding that he hoped the team’s victory would give others “the motivation and awareness of what’s possible if you don’t give up and keep bettering yourself a little each day”.
Gavin’s family — including girlfriend Zoe Lambert and their daughters Maisy, Jasmine and Caitlin — welcomed him home late on Tuesday night with a surprise champagne celebration after dressing his house and driveway in gold balloons.
Gavin said: “I wasn’t expecting the whole family to be there when I got home. There were balloons, banners, it was a real treat.
“I was so tired and a lot of emotions had already come out after our semi-final victory when we found out we had got at least a medal.
“After that there has been so much to compute. It is great to see everyone.”
Well-wishers are invited to meet him and pass on their congratulations in person at the Waverley pub in Brinsworth at 2pm this Sunday.
Jayne, of Brinsworth, watched the final at her parents’ house in Wickersley and described the atmosphere as “amazing” — adding: “We were all shouting and screaming like a mad family!
“We’d had a party the night before and had some friends staying over so we had bacon sandwiches and got together to watch the final.
“My heart was in my mouth during the game but at the end I just burst out crying and we were all jumping up and down.
“I was just bursting with pride that they had got the gold. I just couldn’t believe it.
“I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”
Jayne flew out to Rio to watch Gavin play in the last Paralympics in 2016 and has also followed him to the World Championships in Australia but was forced to stay at home when the pandemic put paid to a planned trip to Tokyo.
“They were quite confident going into it as they’ve had five years together as a team but the pandemic has made it hard as they’ve had to do a lot of training alone,” she said.
“They’ve worked really hard and now they’ve proved they are the best.
“For all elite athletes, the training is tough but Paralympians have to do 100 times more to get to that level.
“Wheelchair rugby has been so important to Gavin and he has dedicated his life to it as something he could throw himself into and achieve goals.
“The comradeship of the squad is there after playing together. They understand each other, not just in terms of the game but their personal journeys to get there.”
In between training, Gavin volunteers as the spinal injuries unit at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.
Jayne said: “He speaks to them at a time they think their lives have ended and says how he was in their position and has got into the GB squad and how there is life after spinal injury.”