Skyline alumnus Jeff Skiba wins silver at London Paralympics

September 25, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Jeff Skiba, of Issaquah, clears the high jump bar at 6 feet, 8.3 inches Sept. 8 during the 2012 London Paralympics. By Randy Richardson

In 2002, Jeff Skiba, then a senior at Skyline High School, won the 3A state high jump championship. But it wasn’t just his 6-foot, 10-inch jump that was impressive — Skiba had one of his legs amputated as an infant.

He never let that slow him down and a decade later he’s still at it. On Sept. 8, this time on the world stage, Skiba thrust himself 2.04 meters, or 6 feet and 8.3 inches, to clear the bar and win the silver medal at the London Paralympics.

“The stands were packed,” said Skiba, who also competed in the men’s javelin throw at the games and finished in eighth place Sept. 2 with a distance of 49.09 meters (161 feet). “It was just incredible.”

This was not Skiba’s first trip to the Paralympics. He first competed in the 2004 games in Athens, where he also won silver in the high jump.

In 2008, he traveled to Beijing. While it was a bad year for the financial sector, it was a great year for Skiba. He won the gold medal for the high jump and earned the silver medal in the pentathlon.

Now, with three Paralympics under his belt, he and his family agree that London put on the best show.

“The people of Great Britain were amazing,” said his mother, Sheri Skiba, of Sammamish.

She and Jeff Skiba’s father, sister, aunt and grandparents all traveled to London to cheer him on. “It’s probably the greatest support we’ve seen for the Paralympics.”

After being born without a fibula in his left leg, Jeff Skiba had the limb amputated when he was 11 months old. His mother said they had a good pediatrician who had seen other children with her son’s condition play sports with prosthetics just like other kids their age.

“We always assumed he’d have a normal life, we didn’t assume he’d have an extra-normal life,” Sheri Skiba said. “He’s a gifted athlete.”

Since graduating from Skyline in 2002 and earning that first state title, Jeff Skiba has gone on to add to his list of accomplishments.

Outside of the Paralympics, which just like the Summer Olympics only come around once every four years, he won the gold medal in the high jump at the 2002 International Challenge Track and Field competition. Later that year, he gold medaled again in the high jump at the International Paralympic Committee’s World Championship.

Then, in 2006, he competed in the pentathlon at the U.S. Paralympic National Championship and took the gold. He went to the IPC World Championship again in 2006 and won the high jump gold medal and finished in fourth place in the long jump. And at the 2011 IPC World Championship, he won the silver medal in the high jump.

It was at the Azusa Pacific Invite in 2008 that Jeff Skiba became the first amputee to jump higher than 7 feet. However, the event was not sanctioned by the Paralympic National Committee, so the jump did not count as a world record.

He didn’t let the quibble affect his momentum. Later that year, he set the official world record of 2.11 meters (6.92 feet) at the Beijing games.

Now a police officer in San Diego, Jeff Skiba is still training and already has his eye on Rio de Janeiro, home of the 2016 Paralympics.

“The London experience was awesome and all it did was motivate me to get ready for Rio in four years,” he said. “I want to get the gold medal back and my world record back.”

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