She was not expected to survive after a traumatic birth in Huddersfield.

But Josie Cichockyj did more than survive: she grew up to be a leading light in disabled sport across the world.

Indeed, she was regarded as one of the pioneers of a movement which has now seen the Paralympics grow to global status.

Josie - who would have been 50 today - died last week after a battle with cancer. She had been living in Stockport for many years with partner Sandra Johnstone, but was brought up in Marsh, Huddersfield.

She was born at the former Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in Portland Street and diagnosed with spina bifida. Her family were told to expect the worst and had her christened in the hospital, but she proved to be a fighter.

Her sister Hazel Spencer said: “She had to undergo a lot of operations after her birth and up to the age of five but was a battler. She wore calipers to help her legs but managed to get a place in mainstream school.

“Josie was one of 10 children and was brought up just like any of her siblings, playing out and racing around in her wheelchair with a friend balanced on the back”.

She went to Rawthorpe Infants and Junior Schools, and then to Newsome High School, where there were several disabled children.

She developed a love of sport at Newsome and furthered that aim when she went to Huddersfield Technical College and then Bolton University.

Josie Cichockyj with the FA Cup at Wembley
Josie Cichockyj with the FA Cup at Wembley
 

She also joined the Physically Handicapped and Able-Bodied Club, or PHAB, at Huddersfield Sports Centre and became a lifelong member.

She landed a job with Kirklees Council helping arrange disabled sports activities and then moved to Greater Manchester Council to do a similar job.

Her personal sporting achievements are extraordinary. She was one of the first women winners of the wheelchair race at the London marathon, taking the title in 1989, and went on to success in several events.

She took part in the Paralympics three times in 1984, 1988 and 1992, competing in wheelchair racing and in wheelchair basketball.

In athletics, Josie held every British track record from 100m through to 5,000m breaking 26 British records. The highlight of her track career was breaking the 5,000m World Track record in Sydney.

She also won many medals at European Track Championships in Belgium and Austria.

Josie was the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Captain for many years and also set up a successful basketball team in the north called The Mavericks.

She also competed in table tennis and became a National Champion and became a ranked tennis player playing on the ATP tour ITF Tennis . She was also a ranked tennis player on the ATP World Wheelchair Tennis Tour.

Her achievements led to many awards and honours including a nomination for Cheshire Woman of the Year, YMCA volunteer of the year and a finalist in the Winning Women Awards 2001.

She worked as chief executive as Mastersport and set up her own promotions company.

Her funeral will be held in Stockport but her ashes will be scattered in Huddersfield.

Her sister said: “I’m afraid Josie put the rest of her family to shame and has lived her life to the full”.

Josie's funeral will be held on December 17 at 1pm at St George's Church, Stockport.