POSTED: November 29th 2010

How Paralympic mission for 2014 has handed Turney her high-speed focus

Anna Turney: on a monoski mission / George Althaus
Anna Turney: on a monoski mission / George Althaus

Anna Turney at speed / Michael j Truelove,
Anna Turney at speed / Michael j Truelove,

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Nov 29: Anna Turney finished sixth in Vancouver last February. Not up among the medals. But then, it was remarkable that she was there at all. Four years earlier she had been paralysed from the waist down in a snowboarding accident in Japan.

Now Turney is mixing preparations for the competitive monoski winter season with motivational workshops . . . and all with a sharp focus on the Sochi Paralympics in 2014. Already she has her sights set on gold.

Turney recalls: “Before the accident I wasn’t on any snowboarding teams but I had competed in the British nationals and was less than a second behind a girl who went to Turin and Vancouver. I felt I had the potential but I hadn’t quite realised it yet.”

In snowboarding, she never did. Turney broke her T11 vertebra which is at waist level. She adds, almost in an aside: “I also broke a few ribs and had some lung damage but that’s all healed in time.

Discovering monoskiing was a doorway not only back into winter sports but a means for Turney to refocus her life. She says: “It helped me to channel my energies and getting into Paralympic sport has helped a great deal in terms of getting my life on track.

“I watched the Turin Games from a hospital bed weeks after the accident and then, four years later, I made it to Vancouver which was such a thrill.

Facilities check

“Now everything’s focused on the world championships in January in Sestiere – where the Turin Games were – and the Europa Cup all winter. Then in 2014 we’ve got Sochi. I’d like to medal this winter – I think that is a definite possibility though it’s not going to be easy – and then hopefully win a gold in Sochi.”

Facilities and funding – as with all Paralympic sports - are always issues.

Turney says: “Facilities vary a lot. The United States and Canada generally cater better for wheelchairs. In Vancouver they were fine for me as a wheelchair user but they could have been better. We can get onto chair lifts but getting on to the gondolas needed more help.

“European resorts are older and not so easily adapted to paralympic needs so you still sometimes come around a corner and find a staircase which is a bit of a problem.”

Confronting challenges and dealing with them is one of the issues Turney deals with in her motivational work.

One project is the London 2012 Young Leaders Programme, which is sponsored by BP and managed by the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust along with the National Young People's Volunteering Service; secondly, in her role with Dame Kelly's Charity, Turney also acts as an athlete mentor on the DKH Legacy Trust's Aspiring Minds.

She says: “It’s been brilliant. For Young Leaders I work with two London groups of teenagers aged between 16 and 17. I have a mentor role which is like being a role model, encouraging them in developing their own projects around 2012.

Volunteer target

“They have to come up with their own ideas and then they have the opportunity, if they do well, to be volunteers at the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

“Aspiring Minds is another support programme for young people. We go into schools with a team of trained communicators who deliver the programme. Then we go in and the kids have the opportunity to have a go at different activities - it’s quite testing.”

But what is “testing” compared with the way Turney finds enjoyment, excitement and fulfilment?

To be precise, she does that by sitting atop a motorbike shaft mounted on a ski and heading down exactly the same courses and distances as all the top names in skiing . . . and at between 65 and 70mph.

No-one, knowing that, dare question her gold medal determination.

For further information about Anna Turney:

More about the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust:

Keywords · Turney · Sochi 2014 · Paralympics ·

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