A BROKEN back suffered in a snowboarding accident would be enough to put most people off winter sports for life.
But Anna Turney could not wait to get back on the slopes and, having mastered the challenges of adapting to a monoski, is daring to dream of winning a Paralympic medal in Sochi.
The 34-year-old sit-skier from Warwick gets her campaign under way in the women’s downhill today, the first day of action, as Great Britain bid for a first Paralympic medal on the slopes in 20 years.
It is eight years since her crash and, after getting a taste of the Games four years ago in Vancouver, she believes she is better equipped to succeed this time around. “It’s the sort of sport where you do need a lot of time on snow,” she said as she looked forward to the opening day of the Games.
“It’s very technical, it can be scary, it’s high speed, it’s quite high risk, it takes time to get good at it. The technique and the tactics take years and years.”
And Turney knows all about risk. A fateful race in Japan in 2006, which ended her snowboarding days, is more than enough evidence of that.
She said: “I remember going into the race and I was going well. I was in the lead, then I crash-landed when I was doing a jump and next thing I knew I was being rushed off to hospital.
“I was in and out of consciousness while waiting for the ambulance. To be honest I was barely with it, I just knew it hurt like hell.”
She returned to the slopes just a year later, joining the British Disabled Ski Team.
“When I got back on snow, it was something I had really looked forward to,” she said. “And then it’s difficult, technically it’s very difficult, so that was very frustrating to start with.”
Things have started to come together since, though and, with only five other competitors in the race today, Turney will be hoping she can make an impact.
“I’ve been training at this for a long time and I’ve started to get some good results in World Cups,” said Turney, who will also compete in the slalom, giant slalom and Super-G.
“I would be absolutely delighted if I won a medal.”
Britain’s leading hopefuls for a first-ever Winter Paralympic gold medal also start today, with Kelly Gallagher and Jade Etherington going in the women’s downhill for visually-impaired athletes, along with guides Charlotte Evans and Caroline Powell.
There have been concerns over the state of the course, and organisers cancelled yesterday’s scheduled training session “due to weather conditions and course track preservation”.
Former soldier Mick Brennan, the British sit-skier who lost both his legs and suffered a serious brain injury in a suicide-bomb attack in Iraq in 2004, withdrew from the downhill this week because of fears of injury on the “slushy snow”.
But organisers insisted yesterday there was no need to be concerned about a lack of snow.
Britain’s wheelchair curling team, skipped by Aileen Neilson, start their competition on the opening day against hot favourites Canada.
Organisers also revealed 283,000 tickets had now been sold for the Games, a record for a Winter Paralympics, and are very close to being sold out.