Polegate’s James Whitley may be the youngest member of the British Disabled Ski Team’s elite squad but he insists age will work to his advantage as he bids to qualify for the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics.
At just 16-years-old, Whitley still has to balance time on the slopes with time spent doing his GCSE homework for his teachers at Millfield Senior School where he is a boarder.
But his educational commitments don’t seem to be limiting his extra-curricular ones – second place in an IPCAS slalom event in Austria last month evidence of that.
And, with an experienced squad around him which includes the likes of Tim Farr, Kelly Gallagher and Anna Turney who all boast Paralympic Games experience, Whitley is confident he can qualify.
“Qualification is going well, it’s quite rewarding,” said Whitley. “I got second place in an IPCAS race and I’ll just have to wait and see how I get on with regards to qualification.
“I have got less than 65 points in slalom and the standard if you haven’t competed at a Winter Paralympic Games is less than 100 points so I’m on track.
“Being the youngest on the team is quite good because it means I can take the experience of the other athletes and learn from them and put it to good use.
“Everyone’s really helpful and nice and there’s no hierarchy or anything. In some ways it’s hard being the youngest because you have the pressure of school as well.
“But the coaches treat us all really fairly and maybe they push me a little bit more to try and get the best out of me.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get a good balance between school work and the skiing but at the moment it’s alright, the school are quite flexible.”
Whitley took up skiing aged four and is now under the tutelage of head coach Tony McAllister with the British Disabled Ski Team, who is helping him reach his goal of competing in Sochi.
And Whitley is keen to continue proving he deserves to live out a lifelong dream of his – competing for Great Britain at a Winter Paralympic Games.
“It’s hard to say if I will qualify and be selected for Sochi 2014 but hopefully if I keep pushing on and get a few good results there’s a good chance,” he added.
“It would mean everything to me to represent my country in Sochi. It’s what I’ve been training for my whole life and it’s been a dream of mine since I was a little child.”
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