IT will be a series of firsts for Eastbourne’s James Whitley when he heads to Sochi for the forthcoming Winter Paralympics but the alpine skier cannot wait for his big moment to arrive.
The 17-year-old travels to Russia as part of a seven-strong Great Britain skiing team looking to meet a target of between two and five medals set by UK Sport.
The Games kick off on March 7, with Whitley making his Paralympics bow in the standing category the following day to cap a rapid rise through the ranks since being recruited to the British Disabled Ski Team.
It will also be a first trip to Russia for the Milfield School pupil but despite having the whole world watching, Whitley is aiming to banish any stage fright.
“Of course there will be a bit of nerves going into my first ever Paralympics but I just have to keep my head clear, just think about my race and hopefully all those nerves will go out of the window,” said Whitley.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting down that slope in Sochi, hopefully doing a good time and getting a good result. I can’t wait.
“I’ve never been to Russia before so I’m very excited to do so, it’s a country I never thought I’d go to so it will be a really interesting experience.
“As soon as I found out I was on the team, I was even more focused to do well in Sochi, I’d probably say I’m more focused than ever before.
“I’ve always been extremely focused to do skiing but now the game is on, I need to make sure I can get the best result I possibly can.”
Since being named in the Great Britain Paralympics team last month, Whitley has been busy with his preparations, including attending a training camp in Austria.
And with the kick off to the Games just around the corner, the skier admits it is all a far cry from when he first took to the slopes as a young child.
“I got into skiing when I was about four, just recreationally with my parents and started racing when I was about nine and then proper races with the British guys when I was 11.
“I just really enjoy the speed and the freedom it gives me, it’s great.
“I have been doing a lot of training including a lot of off slope training, just getting physically really fit as possible. Hopefully it will pay off.”
– 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