Paralympic champ Broom-Edwards calls Celebrity SAS ‘beautiful and horrendous’
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Jonathan Broom-Edwards MBE went from hiding his disability to winning Paralympic glory before signing up for Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins – which he believes posed his biggest challenge yet.
Broom-Edwards was born with a condition called Talipes Equinovarus and Clubbed foot, an impairment that affects one in a thousand babies in the UK every year – and went on to create a high-jump legacy with T64 gold in Tokyo last year.
Ahead of his upcoming reality TV debut in the form of the quasi-military series, Broom-Edwards has detailed his inspirational journey in a chat with Daily Star Sport.
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He begins: "When I was a really young kid I had this freedom about my disability where I didn't let it affect me in any way, but as I grew my legs started to change shape and my left leg became more evidently thinner and weaker.
"I then started to hide it away and be self-conscious about it. I wouldn't like wearing shorts and I was drawn to basketball because you had long shorts and high boots that would cover a lot of my ankle.
"Going to university and playing basketball I kept my impairment hidden until much later in my life, probably not until I started doing a bit of high-jump."
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Having studied aeronautical engineering at Loughborough University, Broom-Edwards was a keen basketball player and started taking part in able-bodied high-jump competition before learning that he could compete in para-sport.
He continued: "So I've gone from hiding my disability into Paralympic sport where the whole world knows about it and that was a tough transition. I was surrounded by people with more evident disabilities where as mine is one of the more hidden ones.
"I went through that process and now I wear it like armour. I use it as a strength and not a weakness and I push the limits of it as best as I can."
Having an impressive start to life in para-sport, Broom-Edwards won medals at the World Championships in 2013, 2015 and 2017 as well as the 2016 Olympics in Rio – but all of those were silver.
He said of his former nearly-man status: "It was always tough. I've done a a lot of work on my mind over the years because it got to the point where I was in a bad space and getting less and less confident.
"I ended up always settling for silver and then get told I should be winning. I had this fear of failure of the bar – which should be natural in high jump it's something to learn from.
"I then got in a really good place in my mind and was getting personal bests in all elements of my training and then I ruptured by Achilles. I'm pleased though that I had done so much work on my mind at the time because it helped me get back."
A combination of coaching and hard-work saw Broom-Edwards win his first World Championship gold in 2019 – but the journey to Rio saw elements of doubt return before his Paralympic success.
He adds: "Turning up to the competition in Tokyo a torrential downpour and freezing weather… to keep my composure and come out on top is something I'll always be proud of.
"The chips were stacked against me at that point for that competition but I managed to keep my cool and pulled out probably a life time best performance in those conditions.
"I've always got that now and I'm really thankful for my high-jump coach Graham Ravenscroft who is due to retire this year, he really dragged me out of the gutter. Out of where I was in 2018 with a broken Achilles and he helped me to rebuild.
"In some ways the gold medal takes a lot of the pressure off, in some ways I can still spread a positive message but on the flip side the pressure in on to retain it – as I'm probably going to return after Paris 2024."
Having achieved his career ambition by being one of 41 Team GB gold medalists in Tokyo, Broom-Edwards has found joy in inspiring others and now puts on motivation talks having been presented with an MBE by Prince William.
He continues: "I know what I want from my life and I want to help others. I have the accolade that will help me spread that message I'm extremely glad about.
"I was surprised to see Prince William was taller than me! He has an amazing presence and we had a few words about my career and his own sporting pursuits when he was younger.
"I'd say to my younger self to wear it like armour. Once you fully accept the impairment you were born with and stop wishing it to be different – it can become quite liberating.
"Yes you have something that is limiting but it presents an opportunity to see how far you can go. All of us in life have something we feel subconscious about and can create a challenge, once you work out what you can control and what you can't it can be inspiring."
The journey of Broom-Edwards has taken another step with his upcoming appearance on the fourth celebrity series of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, which begins on Channel 4 on Sunday (September 4) at 9pm.
He says: "I wanted to do this for so long, I've watched the show for so many years. Once you're in, you've just got to survive.
"I loved the challenge it presented and I wanted to see how I would fare. Since I've been learning about my mind I have wanted other ways to challenge it and there is no better way to see how strong you are and how far you can go.
"You have to push yourself to the very limit and then find some more. It was beautiful… and horrendous. The hardest thing I've ever done but in that it was so amazing because it taught me so much about myself."
Broom-Edwards took part alongside Calum Best, Dwain Chambers, Fatima Whitbread, Jade Jones and Shannon Courtenay among others – with whom he found a sense of solidarity.
Adding: "We are all from different walks of life but all suffering in the same way. We all had our own challenges and things to overcome in life and it was the team element which I thrived in.
"To see that it's not just about me surviving it's about us all surviving. I wanted to help lift everyone else because it helped lift me too.
"I heard their stories about what they went through and it left me inspired. My biggest message is that there is always more you can find within yourself.
"Having been the one with the disability among this section of recruits – I wanted to show that wasn't that which would limit me or hold me back."
Watch Jonathan Broom-Edwards on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins series four which airs Sundays at 9pm from 4 September on Channel 4.
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