International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing chairperson Pál Szekeres has paid tribute to five-time Paralympian David Heaton, who has died.
Heaton won a bronze medal in the men's team sabre event at Barcelona 1992, where he made his Paralympic debut as an 18-year-old,
The Briton went on to compete at the Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and London 2012 Paralympics.
Heaton died on Saturday (January 9) in Blackpool, after an 18-month battle with cancer.
"It is with great sadness that we received the news of David's passing over the weekend," said IWAS Wheelchair Fencing chairperson Szekeres.
"He was a friendly figure on the circuit for many years who helped inspire the next generation of athletes at home and abroad.
"It is no coincidence that Britain has some of the world’s top wheelchair fencers.
"They follow directly in his footsteps and many more will do so in the years to come.
"My thoughts, and that of the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Executive Committee and wider community, are with his wife, family and friends at this difficult time."
Very sad to hear that @HeatonGBRrrr David Heaton, 5 times @ParalympicsGB fantastic wheelchair fencer and Paralympic bronze medal winner has passed away. Condolences to David's wife, family and friends from all @wheelpower and @SMStadium pic.twitter.com/giRgzXazmQ— Martin McElhatton OBE (@WheelPower_CEO) January 9, 2021
Former British team manager and 10-time Paralympic medallist Caz Walton also paid tribute to Heaton.
"[David] was a popular figure internationally and a great ambassador for his country," Walton said.
"David retired from international sport after London 2012 but continued to put time and effort back into the sport that he loved.
"He was a caring, humorous, and much-loved man and his passing, much too young, leaves a hole a mile wide in our hearts."
After retiring from the sport, Heaton became chairman of the British Disabled Fencing Association (BDFA).
Under Heaton's leadership, the BDFA changed from an association to a charitable organisation, before he retired in 2017.