Going for Gold

“I rip down mountains as fast as I can for GB!”

– Anna Turney’s Facebook    http://www.anna-turney.com


On March 14, 2010 at Whistler Creekside, B.C., in the 10th Winter Paralympics, Anna Turney, racing for Great Britain, finished in sixth place in the Women’s Slalom – Sitting event.  The gold medal was won by an Austrian woman and the silver and bronze by American and Japanese women, in that order.  A quick review of world geography and topography will confirm that Austria, the USA, and Japan all have mountains.  Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England does not but it does have one of the top sit-skiers in the world.

Why is Anna’s story included in a book about Japan, Canada, and Spain?  Because, even though her life began in England, her future as a Paralympic athlete began in Inu’s hometown of Yamagata.  Flashback to 2005, Anna is teaching English in Japan and spending as much time as humanly possible snowboarding on Mount Zao.  This twenty-five year old woman is driven by her ambition to be a boarder for the British Olympic team.  Her love of snow, which first began when snowboarding with her brother in Canada, is so great that her nickname is Snow White and although not very large in stature herself, her passion for the sport dwarfs any competition. She is fearless in her pursuit of excellence and everyone who meets her is charmed by her positive outlook.

In her own words, “One cold January morning in Yamagata, Japan, my life ambition to snowboard for Great Britain shattered along with my lower thoracic spine and a few ribs, as I overshot a 30 foot table top.  In a fraction of a second I became paraplegic.”  News of Anna’s devastating accident reached around the world like the shock waves of an atomic bomb, to Vancouver where Inu was living at the time.  How could this have happened?  Anna’s parents travelled from England to Japan to be with her and her friends gathered round her.  The real miracle was wrought by Anna’s indomitable spirit.  Rather than succumbing to despair at having the one thing she adored most in life taken from her, she looked for the opportunities that are promised in the adage, when a door closes, a window opens.  How many of us would have faced the future so bravely?

“From my hospital bed, I tentatively asked world champion and Paralympic monoskier (sit-skier), Stacey Kohut, about riding powder. His alluring words ‘You turn when the terrain makes you’ conjured blissful visions and sparked new dreams in my mind which was reeling in shock”.   Upon leaving after a month in the Japanese hospital, the surgeon called as he waved goodbye, “I’ll see you in the Paralympics”. Anna took these words to heart.  June 2007 found Anna joining the British Disabled Ski Team Development Squad and the Paralympics GB Fast Track Scheme.  The first three months of 2008 found Anna and the rest of the Development Squad training in British Columbia, Canada and racing in the NorAm World Cup qualifiers.  Anna placed third in the Downhill and in the Super Giant Slalom in Kimberly, B.C.   She also placed third in the Giant Slalom at Sunpeaks, B.C.  This fantastic showing got her promoted to the ‘B’ team of the British Disabled Ski Team in April 2008, less than a year after joining the Development Squad.

That winter she trained in Europe and North America and raced in the Europa Cup and NorAm Cup placing third again in the Giant Slalom in Park City, Utah.  Most importantly, she qualified for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics.  Anna returned to Asia in February 2009, this time to Korea, where she placed fourth in the Giant Slalom and eighth in the Slalom at races held at High 1 Resort.  Before heading to the Paralympics, Anna raced in La Molina, Spain, at the opposite end of the Iberian Peninsula from where Inu lives.  Her Facebook entry for January 30th read, “Crashed in GS today.”

The race in Spain foreshadowed the Giant Slalom event in Whistler on March 16th.  She wrote, “7th after first Giant Slalom run, pushed too hard and crashed in second.  At least I went for it but gutted.”  The most important part of those words is at least I went for it.  A short four years after having to learn to use her body in a whole new way, Anna Turney was once again hurtling down slopes and making her country, her family, and her friends proud by occupying the rarefied position of top athletes in the world.  That is most definitely ‘going for it’!

Anna, who has recently moved into an adapted flat with her fiancé, claims that her biggest challenge these days is finding sponsors so that she can continue to compete in her beloved sport


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