Tuesday, 10 October 2017

British alpine skier Anna Turney wows pupils on visit

Written by Holly, Year 8 student reporter

On Wednesday 27th September, Anna Turney visited Whitley Academy for a talk to our young pupils. We all knew it would be a day we would remember for a long time!


Anna started with a short introduction about her younger years, before the serious accident on the slopes of Yamagata in Japan in 2006. She grew up in Northampton, and when she was young, a popular snow dome was built. Anna had the opportunity to snowboard and enjoyed it massively.

However, the 2006 accident left her paralysed from the waist down. One day a friend of hers showed Anna a picture of a paralysed person skiing. She promised herself, no matter what, she would have a go at it. Anna wanted to prove that something bad might happen to anyone, nevertheless, it could result in new positive direction for that person’s life.

Then after one whole year, she was finally allowed to ski again and she did, on the anniversary of the crash. She stayed true to her word! 

"Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts"Dan Gable

After the shaky start of mono-skiing, Anna’s determination was known further afield, and she was invited to join the British Disabled Ski Team. In this new capacity of working with the best people in Great Britain, there were moments she doubted her ability, but she carried on. 

Thanks to the support of her coach, who continuously assured her that she had lots of potential, Anna put herself back on track for the next Paralympic games. It was ONLY two and a half years away!

"To be a good athlete, you need to train both your mind and your body."Anna Turney

In the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics she managed a sixth place in the slalom. It was fascinating to hear from Anna that in the two hours break awaiting the second run (there were two runs altogether), she phoned her brother and was advised  to push harder. Hence she did! Wow!

From her fascinating talk, we were then taken to the giant dining halls of the Paralympic Games: it was amazing to witness the massive cheering from everyone there when a winner came in (in various ways) with the medal proudly hanging round their neck.

She then went on to tell us about how she had achieved thirty-one European and World Cup medals!

In the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Anna qualified for the Sochi Games despite the fact she had to fight for her place in the Games. It’s her determination that has helped her all the way.

It was after this 2014 Paralympic Games that she realised the importance of setting one’s own BIG goals as well as SMALL goals and work towards them.

Anna shared with us how she has built up her support network, which has enabled her to achieve the unthinkable so far. Some of us might not naturally have a good support network, we can still build our support network from people working around us: our teachers, our school staff, and our friends.

Some other inspirational ideas we learned from Anna:

There are things you can’t control (In her case they were: what if she did not do well enough, how the press would report about her performances, if snow felt too heavily, what if her kits broke etc.). Do not worry about them. However, worry about things you can control (she could control how she would breathe whilst competing or control what she focused on).

We asked Anna if she ever had moments to doubt yourself.

“Yes of course. There are always moments of doubt as I tried to do better. Think about some ‘personal truce’ about yourself. It could be anything, for instance, ‘I am friendly’, ‘ I am dynamic’, ‘I am strong’. Have them displayed around you. It’s easy to forget good stuff about yourself.”

A Conversation with Anna

The second part of her visit was the conversation between Anna and the Year 7, 8 and 9 student reporters. 

We asked her questions about her childhood, teenage years and how she got to where she was now. Anna was very at ease to respond to our questions which resulted in more and more questions from us. 

We realised that Anna’s upbringing was just as ordinary as ours, being very close to both of her parents, she had rivalries between herself and her brothers (who later was her rock when she was recovering from the serious accident). 

There was a moment the whole audience shared their laughter with Anna when she was asked about her first ever ‘crush’ in her teenage years. The response circulated around a much older boy student called 'JT' who was in sixth form, whom she thought was gorgeous. In her giggling, Anna asked us to move on to another topic. We did!

The day ended with a very nice lunch in the School Conference. We all were very lucky to spend more time to be around Anna and reflected our thoughts on the day.

“Really good. I felt her story came across really well and she linked it to potential issues/struggles that students may face whilst at school.”Mr. Abbot

“Really enjoyed it. I found it inspirational and students were really engaged.”Miss Oakman

From Anna’s personal story, many of us have found it relates to our personal lives. She took us onto a journey starting with the spinal injuries to the sweet memories when she was a teenager in school (being silly in lessons, imitating birds’ singing whilst the English teacher was in the classroom). We all listened attentively to all of her advice.

I personally keep on thinking about her words that we should try not to worry, especially things we can’t control as it has been her weakness to worry too much.

Our MASSIVE THANKS to Anna for giving us all such an inspiring talk; and also to the national charity Speakers for Schools, for giving us the opportunity to meet and talk to Anna.

Thank you for reading my blog.