Paralympian from Warwick becomes first Ambassador for Heart of England Mencap
PUBLISHED: 13:03 02 February 2015 | UPDATED: 13:11 02 February 2015
Anna Turney was one of the UK’s brightest snowboarding hopes when an accident in competition left her paralysed. Her determination to overcome adversity has been recognised by Heart of England Mencap.
In 2006, at the age of 26, Anna, from Warwick, was competing in Japan when she shattered her spine during a fall. Her sporting career - as she knew it - was over.
But Anna refused to give up.
Four years later, she was back competing on the snow as a mono-skier, finishing in sixth place at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.
Anna’s story of strength is now to be used by Heart of England Mencap to inspire others in the face of adversity, with Anna being appointed the Stratford-based charity’s first Ambassador.
As well as training and competing as a Paralympian, Anna also works as a motivational speaker and as a youth mentor for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. She encourages others to adopt the kind of incredible positivity that she did just weeks after an injury which left her facing a new future in a wheelchair.
Anna spent five weeks in hospital in Japan before being allowed to fly home to the UK where she spent a further three months in rehabilitation. In that short time, she found the strength to embrace her new life and set her sights on Paralympic sport.
Anna said: “I had incredible support from family and friends and that helped enormously. A friend came to see me in hospital in Japan and showed me a picture of a Canadian Paralympian mono-skiing - I hadn’t even heard of it before. I also spoke to that Paralympian and immediately decided I want to try skiing.
“I am a huge believer in setting goals – achievable ones – and then celebrating them. To start with, this was simply sitting up and balancing, then came the rest.”
Anna got back on the snow a year after her accident. After only three years training she finished sixth in Slalom at the Vancouver Paralympics.
In 2014 she headed to the Sochi Paralympics, finishing fourth in Super G, sixth in Slalom and eighth in Giant Slalom as part of Great Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympic team.
Anna, now 35 and married, also won bronze and silver medals in the 2013 and 2014 World Cup. She said: “My journey from snowboarder to racing on the Olympic Men’s Downhill Track in Sochi at 65mph, via a few hospital beds, has been a roller coaster. It hasn’t been easy. Nevertheless, representing Great Britain was worth every blizzard, sore muscle, hour spent in the gym, months spent away from my husband. My achievements are a win over adversity and disability.
“I am honoured to be an Ambassador for Heart of England Mencap and to support the charity’s hard work.”
Helena Wallis, Chief Executive of Heart of England Mencap, said: “We focus on people’s abilities and not their disabilities and Anna’s story is a really inspiring testament to that motto, it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can do. We are so grateful to Anna for taking the time to act as an Ambassador for us, to spread that message and inspire anyone affected by a disability.
“Anna is our first Ambassador and we aim to work with more in the future, building a team to represent us and shine a positive light on disability and learning disability, which can be too often shadowed in stigma.”
Heart of England Mencap, with its head office just outside Stratford, provides wide range of services across Warwickshire and Worcestershire, supporting those with learning disabilities.
These services include supported living, residential care, outreach care, short breaks and respite and a range of day activities across the region.
For more information, visit: www.heartofenglandmencap.org.uk