Jonathan in action on the snooker table
When Jonathan Adams was born nine and a half weeks premature, his parents were told he had little chance of survival.
That was 23 years ago, and he is now a successful athlete who competed for Great Britain at the 2012 Paralympics. His story is one of mind over matter; determination in the face of adversity.
Adams has cerebral palsy, which affects all four of his limbs, particularly on his left side. But he has refused to let that stop him fulfilling his love of competitive sport. During his schooldays he discovered he had a talent for the shot put and discus, and after rising through the ranks he represented his country for the first time in 2008. In 2011 at the World Junior Championship in Dubai he won two silver medals in the F34 category. And the following year at London 2012 he came 14th in the shot put.
In 2014 he went back to being an ambulant (standing) thrower in the F35 category and had to relearn how to throw. He is still developing a technique thanks to a new brace. He placed fourth at the 2014 IPC European Championship, and now after a challenging year on and off the track he is building towards Rio 2016.
He also happens to be a huge snooker fan, having first played the sport as a child. “When I was in primary school I wanted to go out and play football with the other kids,” Adams recalls. “But it was too dangerous for me to take part. So my parents bought me a six-foot snooker table and I loved it, I would play for hours after school. I have always enjoyed the challenge of proving to myself and others what I can do, especially if I’ve been told that I can’t.
“I started watching snooker on TV and marvelled at how good the players were. To this day I don’t think people appreciate the skill they have at the top level, it’s really an art form. I was lucky enough to get to know Paul Mount and to have the chance to practise at the South West Snooker Academy. I played with the likes of Michael Wasley, Daniel Wells, Reanne Evans and Robert Milkins, as well as competing in the Pink Ribbon tournament which was a fantastic experience for me. Paul’s support team including Andrew Norman, Janie Watkins and Morray Dolan were always very welcoming.
“I played local league snooker in Sudbury for a while and I still play regularly, in fact last month I made my highest ever break of 61. I’m a perfectionist and I feel there are parts of my game I can develop. Stamford Cuemakers are making me a new cue at the moment which I believe will help my game a lot and allow me to keep improving.
“For me it is a way to escape from the pressures of athletics. But there are a lot of similarities because you need to have the right mental approach and the ability to forget about your mistakes. I had some coaching from Frank Adamson for a while who has also worked with Ronnie O’Sullivan. He drew a parallel between me and Ronnie because we both get frustrated by our own performances and don’t always see the positives. That’s something I have had to work on in athletics in order to achieve my goals.”
Given Adams’ passion for snooker, his drive to succeed and his experience in competitive sport, he was a natural choice to join the board of the new World Disability Billiards and Snooker body, which will aim to open up opportunities in cue sports for all people with disabilities.
The WDBS has been set up under the auspices of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, with guidance from the English Federation of Disability Sport.
The new body will run tournaments for people with disabilities, under eight different categories. Click here for details of the first tournament in Gloucester in November.
There will also be open days when players can get free advice and guidance from experienced World Snooker coaches.
“One of the great things about snooker is that it can be played by everyone, regardless of age, gender and ability,” said Adams, who has just graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in social psychology.
“As a child, before I had surgery on my legs, it was difficult for me to play snooker, but I learned to adapt. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs play to an extremely high standard, and others with severe disabilities play snooker by using the end of a rest as a ‘bridge hand.’
“People can be fearful about organising or attending disability tournaments because they take longer and they present challenges. But once you get past those hurdles and realise all of the challenges can be overcome, then you can create so many opportunities for people who might not otherwise get the chance to enjoy competitive sport. There are so many benefits to come from that, for the participants and for the sport itself.
“With the backing of World Snooker and the WPBSA, we can make big progress. Not every sport opens its doors to people with disabilities. We are standing on a platform and bringing more people in. One day I would love to see snooker become a Paralympic sport.
“Snooker is having great success at professional level but we need to look to the future by helping the grassroots to grow and keeping the sport alive. If we can provide the opportunity then it’s up to the individuals to take advantage.”