JAMES Whitley insists while simply getting over the finish line was an achievement in itself, a top-15 placing in the men’s slalom equates to a fantastic Winter Paralympic debut.
The 16-year-old skier, who was born with an impairment to both hands, navigated two runs on the tricky Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre course in a time of 1:53.43 minutes to place 15th.
Ranked second in the world at under-18 level in the slalom, Whitley has a bright future ahead of him and is confident having gotten his first taste of the Winter Paralympics he will only get better.
“It was absolutely amazing, I am really pleased with my run,” he said. “I made a few mistakes and therefore could have gone a little bit faster but I am happy I made it down for my first race at the Paralympics.
“I was quite happy how I got through both runs but it wasn’t easy at all. Conditions were very hard and very rutted and it has been very heavily salted. But I just kept a few per cent in the bag to make sure I made it down to the bottom.
“It’s really special and it’s been an amazing experience. I was hoping to get down and ski as well as I could, maybe to come in the top 20 as a rough estimate but to come in the top 15 is even better.
“I have skied on a lot rough courses but that last run was very rutted and very hard but I have skied in worse put it that way.
“Everyone here is really friendly and I have had a huge chance to train as much as I can before racing so I have been in a great place.”
Whitley, who made his international debut aged just 11, will next compete on Saturday in Rosa Khutor when he goes in the men’s giant slalom event.
And having had a chance to get a feel for the condition of the slopes in the mountains high above Sochi he simply cannot wait to get back into competitive action.
“It has taught me a lot this experience,” he added. “I can take forward just how to ski in these snow conditions to the best of my ability and that it is always a good idea to make the course.
“The coaches said to just make sure I stick to my technique and keep my weight on my outside ski, my feet together and get down.
“Slalom is definitely my preferred event but I still really like the giant slalom because you can go faster but I prefer this, probably because I am better at it.”
Sainsbury’s is a proud long-term supporter of the British Paralympic Association and a champion of inclusive sport for all. For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit: www.Sainsburys.co.uk/activekids