Emily Goddard

Cyril Thomas has died aged 86 ©WheelPowerApril 29 - British wheelchair fencing and wheelchair basketball legend Cyril Thomas has died at the age of 86.

The Yorkshireman enjoyed a 28-year career in the sports, between 1960 and 1988, during which he claimed 12 Paralympic medals in fencing and one in basketball to make him one of the nation's most successful Paralympians in history.

He had been working as a miner in his youth, but started playing wheelchair basketball as part of his rehabilitation following an accident that left him with a broken back at the age of 27.

"Cyril first came to wheelchair basketball in his late twenties as part of his rehabilitation following his spinal injury and quickly proved to be a natural at the sport in which he represented Great Britain at two Paralympic Games, helping the team win bronze in both 1968 and 1960 - the latter in the men's B team event," read a statement from British Wheelchair Basketball.

"In addition, Cyril was an extremely talented athlete off the basketball court and also competed for Great Britain in fencing at an astonishing five Paralympic Games - 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1988 - where he accumulated a phenomenal three gold medals, three silver medals and five bronze medals."

Thomas had always remained positive following his life changing accident and was a strong advocate for wheelchair sport.

"It has been good to me being disabled, it has kept me fit," he said in an interview in 2012.

"It must have done me good somehow.

"Anybody who has this kind of injury should do some wheelchair sport.

"It has kept me well."

Multiple Paralympic champion and former fencing teammate Caz Walton led the tributes to Thomas.

"Cyril Thomas was a superb fencer and a member of the best British sabre team I have ever seen - Ron Parkin, Terry Willett and Cyril," she said.

"Always a sporting gentleman, Cyril was one of the nicest people I have met and a credit to his sport and his country."

WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, also paid tribute, saying: "Cyril will be greatly missed by all who knew him and our thoughts are with his friends and family."

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