Chris Holmes, Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer, will receive an honorary degree today, Wednesday 4 July, at the University’s Summer Award Ceremonies.
He will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at 3pm at Bath Abbey.
Chris lost his sight overnight at the age of 14. However, he went on to become Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer, winning six gold medals at the Barcelona Games in 1992 and a further three at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000. He holds a string of World and European titles and 35 world records.
Following the Barcelona Games he was awarded an MBE for services to British sport, aged only 20.
He read politics at the University of Cambridge and until recently was a commercial lawyer at a leading City practice. In addition he served as a Disability Rights Commissioner for five and a half years.
Chris was an ambassador to the successful London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid and is now Director of Paralympic Integration for LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games).
Bath was very close to Chris’ heart growing up, spending time with grandmother who lived in the city. Now he is in contact with the University through its Paralympic connections, particularly while the University is hosting the Paralympic GB team in preparation for London 2012.
Speaking about being awarded an honorary degree he said: “As the name suggests, it’s a real honour. It came as a complete surprise. It’s a humbling experience to be recognised by such a great institution as the University of Bath.
“I’m looking forward to the privilege of addressing the students and having the opportunity to chat to them after the ceremony about their aspirations. I’ve been lucky enough to have achieved many goals in life and I want to encourage them that whatever their dream is they can achieve it.”
As Director of Paralympic Integration for LOCOG, Chris is leading the first Olympic organising committee to combine planning for the Olympics and Paralympics.
He said: “We want to stage the greatest Paralympic Games and that means putting athletes at the heart of everything we do so that they can focus on giving the best performance of their lives. It will make the difference between a good Games and a great Games.
“I’m looking ahead to a superb summer of sport and the opportunity we have to make a positive statement about ‘possibility’, to enable a fundamental shift in attitude to opportunities for disabled athletes.
At the ceremony Dr James Bilzon, Head of the University’s Department for Health, will say in his oration: “Mr Holmes’ careful stewardship of his two potentially contrasting life-goals, sport and law, serve as a reminder to us all of what can be achieved if we have self-belief, if we are willing to work hard and if we make the right decisions at the right time.”
Chris is a Patron of Help for Heroes, the Youth Sport Trust and the British Paralympic Association and a member of the board at UK Sport.