James runs into history

Paralympian, gold medallist and award-winner, James Turner, is quick to point out that he is a fraternal twin.

His older sister, Hayley, was born just 6 minutes before him. She never let him forget it.

“I looked up to her”, James says.

“She was always better than me at everything,” James jokes.

“I didn’t let that slow me down.”

“When I was about 8, I promised myself that one day, I’d be the best in the world at something.”

And how right he was.

Fast forward a few years and James has held World Records for the T36 para-athletics classification in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m.

T36 is a type of sports classification for athletes with disability, which according to Athletics Australia includes athletes who compete standing and have balance and coordination problems affecting their whole body.

James’s latest T36 para-athletics win was last year at the World Championships in Paris, where he took out the 100m and 400m.

“It felt pretty good,” James says.

“It’s always hard trying to win the 100m after running the 400m even though you’ve got a couple of days to recover, you’re not quite there.

“I usually take a good week and a half to recover from a fast 400m as it’s just so neurologically taxing for me.

“To come away with the win on both that was very heartening for me and it really gave me a lot of confidence going into the Paris Paralympics.”

James lives with cerebral palsy, which is why competing can sometimes be challenging.

“When I was born I was immediately put into intensive care,” James says.

“My mum didn’t get to hold me so that was a little bit disappointing for her.

“But I didn’t get a diagnosis until I was about 4 or 5.”

Following his diagnosis, James’s parents encouraged him to into “every sport and every physical activity,” which eventually led to the Pararoos, and then the Paralympics.

Last year James won the AIS Male Para-Athlete of the Year award, which was proudly sponsored by the International Day of People with Disability.

“That meant a lot to me,” James says.

“I was up against so many other fantastic athletes.

“A lot of work’s gone into it and I really hope that the spotlight that it affords me, I’m able to raise awareness for disabled sports people.

I’d also like to raise awareness about the benefits sport has for all people with disability, particularly for people with coordination impairments, because sport has done wonders for my ability to live my daily life.”

James is currently looking to the 2024 Paris Paralympics for his next goal.

“The selections for the Paralympics will probably be made by June,” James says.

“Preparations for me have been going ok, there’s been ups and downs.

“I did my fastest ever season opener for the 400m late last year.

“That’s pretty heartening; I think I was in really good shape.

“It’s probably going to be my best ever major championships I reckon.”

For those people with disability thinking of taking up a sport, James says give it a go.

“It’s going to be hard and you probably won’t be as good as your abled bodied peers straight away.

“But you will improve and you really should be focussing on being a better version of yourself every time.”

When not breaking world records in athletics, James is a self-confessed ‘nerd’ who loves to play board games.

Looking to the future, James would like to venture into personal training, for which he has qualifications, and eventually work with kids with disability.

“My dream is that one day, one of my future clients will come and say, ‘Today I won a game of handball and it was on my own skill and merit.’”

“That would make my life; I’d know then that I’d done what I set out to do.”