Tuesday, 28 May 2024
Tuesday, 28 May 2024

MiracleFeet: The sports superstars who didn’t let clubfoot impede their success

FOR many people, walking, standing, and running are a part of their everyday routine. But for those born with a physical disability like clubfoot, these routine tasks present significant challenges.

Clubfoot causes one or both feet to turn inward and upward and can be incredibly painful and uncomfortable. It can also lead to lifelong disability if left untreated.

Recreational sport, let alone professional sport, can often feel like an impossibility for people born with clubfoot, but in fact, many people are breaking this stigma and showing that clubfoot doesn’t have to hold anyone back from pursuing a sporting passion.

In fact, many of the 2 million people who have been treated with clubfoot (out of the 9.8 million people alive today who were born with clubfoot) have overcome their physical limitations and gone on to achieve remarkable success in their respective sports. 

A recent success story of this kind centres around Spanish golfer, Jon Rahm, who – despite being born with clubfoot – won the coveted Masters Tournament this year.  

At birth, Rahm’s right foot was turned 90 degrees inward and upside down. Treatment entailed realigning the bones in his little foot and wearing casts throughout his early childhood to maintain the correction. This obviously presented challenges to his development and mobility – challenges unlike those of other children his age.

After finding a passion for golf later in life, Rahm realised he would never have the mobility in his ankle required to be a professional golfer. However, instead of giving up his passion, he adjusted his backswing and powered his stroke with his hands and core strength. Now, Rahm celebrates being a two-time Major Champion in the sport after winning the US Open in 2021 and the Masters in April 2023. 

Professional footballer Steven Gerrard is another sports superstar who, many Brits are surprised to learn, was born with clubfoot. 

Following treatment for his condition as a child, Gerrard joined his hometown football team, Whiston Juniors, where he was noticed by Liverpool scouts. He later went on to captain both Liverpool Football Club and the England national team, making him one of English football’s most influential midfielders of the modern era.

At MiracleFeet we’re fortunate to have the support of two GB athletes who have also overcome the barriers associated with clubfoot to make extraordinary achievements in their profession; our UK Ambassadors, Jonathan Broom-Edwards and Aaron McKibbin.

Hailing from Colchester, Jonathan was born with bilateral clubfoot; however, this didn’t stop him from making it to the podium. After watching the London 2012 Summer Paralympics, Jonathan realised that he could be eligible as a para-sport competitor and was quickly classified in 2013 as a T44 athlete. He went on to win silver at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and more recently took gold in Tokyo for the high jump. Awarded an MBE for his services to athletics in 2022, he is now training to defend his Paralympic title at Paris 2024.

Born in London, Aaron underwent years of corrective surgery for his clubfoot, starting when he was just one week old. 

Growing up, he spent much of his free time playing tennis before finding a passion for table tennis at school, where his coaches quickly realised his potential. Following years of dedicated practice, Aaron went on to earn bronze in the men’s class 6-8 team table tennis at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and then once again in Tokyo in 2021.

Currently, 2 million children live with the pain and stigma of untreated Clubfoot – a condition which affects at least 1 in 700 globally. At MiracleFeet, our goal is to create universal access to treatment for this leading cause of physical disability. 

By shining a spotlight on these incredible stories and celebrating the accomplishments of those born with clubfoot, we can also help to shift attitudes towards disability and inspire others to achieve their dreams.

For more information visit the MiracleFeet website: www.miraclefeet.org.

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