Sportschat with Anna Turney

A sporting, competitive family and some fine coaching at Oundle School moulded Anna Turney into a superb snowboarder

An accident nine years ago, however, forced Anna’s sporting career into a new direction – and one at which she’s excelled still further.

In 2006 Anna Turney, then a promising snowboarder, fell on the slopes of Yamagata in Japan, leaving her paralysed from the waist down. Determined not to be defeated, Anna decided to become a Paralympic ski racer.

After three years’ training, Anna came sixth in the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics. Four years later she finished fourth, sixth and eighth in Great Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

How did Oundle help you to develop as an athlete?

School sport developed discipline, skills, competitiveness, team culture, and a have-a-go attitude. We played sport every afternoon apart from Sundays, regardless of the weather. I also don’t remember any disparity between boys’ or girls’ sport – we enjoyed it all.

What are your memories of school life beyond the sports field?

I loved my house and made lots of friends, didn’t do badly in class – and my best mate and I played endless pranks. My housemaster, Norman Brittain, was a really good guy. He even came to visit me in hospital when I became paralysed eight years later. I do remember being a bit daunted by the inter-house singing competition – I’m a terrible singer.

How have your two sporting careers to date compared for you?

I’ve had a lot more support with Alpine skiing than I did with snowboarding. I was shy about sharing my snowboarding dreams, but the accident made me realise that it’s now or never. I was determined to progress in skiing and, because I was never a funded athlete, I had to ask for help and work hard to promote myself. There is no way I could have achieved so much without phenomenal support from family and friends, schools, sponsors and local media.

Did the accident give your career new direction and focus?

Breaking my back certainly turned my life upside down. To start with, it just seemed like there was a lot I couldn’t do – but many doors have opened. I believe that with hard work, determination and self-belief you really can turn obstacles into opportunities.

Is Paralympic skiing getting the exposure it deserves? 

Alpine skiing is the fastest Paralympic sport, and it’s very exciting to watch. Thanks to Channel 4’s exposure of London 2012, interest in the Paralympics has grown dramatically. However, the Winter Games are covered less here and Paralympic skiing has a long way to go.

What has been your sporting highlight thus far?

Finishing sixth in Vancouver four years after becoming paralysed was a huge achievement, and I was delighted to represent GB at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi – but my biggest highlight was a World Cup Silver in Tignes in 2014.

And what has been your greatest challenge so far? 

Crashing in the Sochi Downhill when I was on track for silver was tough. It has taken me a long time to appreciate what an amazing achievement it was to dare to point the ski down the hill and attack the toughest course ever – one that even able-bodied Olympic racers pulled out of because it was too dangerous.

We all face challenges in our lives and with a positive attitude you can get a lot out of life, whatever your situation. I know that I am incredibly fortunate.

What are your plans for the future?

I do talks and developmental workshops in schools and businesses. I have a positive message and I feel it is important to help people if I can. I also do mentoring with disadvantaged youths for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. I’ve done my first TV news report for BBC Midlands Today and I’m volunteering on Proud Paralympian, a programme aimed at developing upcoming athletes. Most of all, I’d like to get into TV presenting. I shall do my best to embrace the next challenge!

✚ www.annaturney.com

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