Former Paralympian Anna Turney backs teen Para-ski stars

Anna Turney (second right)

The Winter Paralympics gets underway in South Korea this week and there’s snow where better to be according to TASS alumna turned lifestyle practitioner Anna Turney.

When rising star Menna Fitzpatrick goes for alpine gold at the 2018 Winter Paralympics, former queen of the slopes Anna Turney might just feel the odd pang of jealousy. Maybe.

After representing Paralympics GB at the 2010 and 2014 games, Turney decided to call time on her skiing career and focus her attention on life after elite sport.

But will her first Winter Paralympics post-retirement prompt the fourth-placed finisher in Sochi’s Super G event to reassess the decision to retire?

“It’s been amazing to be involved in the Winter Paralympics but I don’t regret the decision to step away when I did,” said Turney. “It was the right time for me – I wanted to start a family and develop my career outside of skiing.

“You forget how much hard work everyone involved – the athlete, their coach, their family – puts in behind the scenes. The public’s focus is on a few days every four years but it’s a full-time commitment to perform at that level.

“I was so lucky that I had an amazing career. It’s so exciting being at a Winter Paralympic Games. But what I saw there as an athlete was the media side of things and that’s where I see myself in the future.”

And that’s exactly where Turney will be as she joins Channel Four’s studio team to offer expert analysis on the 2018 alpine skiing events.

“I’d love to go down the media route,” she added. “I’m developing my public speaking business but I can’t wait to be part of the Channel Four coverage of the Winter Paralympics.

“Our visually impaired athlete alpine skiers are very talented this year. We’ve got Millie Knight, who was Paralympics GB’s youngest athlete at Sochi in 2014, competing alongside Menna.

“Millie skis with her guide Brett Wild and Menna works with Jennifer Kehoe. They are two pairings that could do really well and they stand a very good chance of winning medals.

“Kelly Gallagher has also come back from injury to win one of the extra places with her new guide Gary Smith: she won gold in Sochi in the Super G but she’s had a tough time lately.

“Apart from the alpine skiing, I’ll be looking out for the para snowboarding and the cross-country skiing. Our curlers always do well and the ice hockey tournament is also hugely entertaining.”

That Turney is taking a particular interest in Fitzpatrick and Knight is, perhaps, no surprise. The former was a TASS-supported athlete and the latter received backing from SportsAid.

As a qualified lifestyle practitioner with TASS – and a former TASS-supported athlete – Turney is well aware of the unique challenges facing emerging athletes juggling elite sport with education and employment.

And as a staunch supporter of the dual career model, the former Paralympian is committed to passing on her expertise and using her experience to help guide the stars of the future.

“I’m really enjoying being able to support people using my experience as a former international athlete,” added Turney.

“I’ve completed the TALS lifestyle advisor course and getting your teeth into something new once you retire is essential.

“I like the satisfaction that you get from seeing people develop academically and with their sport. There are young people who take the advice on board and feel the benefit – however small that benefit might be.

“But mentoring is always a two-way process and as a mentor you’re always developing.

“When I was a TASS athlete I was lucky enough to benefit from lifestyle support. In fact one of my current colleagues at the University of Birmingham was my lifestyle support advisor!

“I always found it really helpful to have someone there who I could bounce ideas off – especially as that person understood the unique challenges I faced as a student athlete.

I was offered advice on time management – which I struggled with initially – and that advice made things so much easier.”

In tandem with her TASS and media commitments, Turney works with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and the True Athlete Project.

And the 38-year-old insists the learning process never ends for former athletes seeking a new direction after leaving behind a life in sport.

“Transferring out of sport is always challenging, whatever the circumstances,” she added. “However much you’ve planned for it there’s no preparing for that day when you call time on your career as an elite athlete.

“That’s just one of the many reasons why TASS continues to play such an important role. It prepares athletes for the future and opens their eyes to life beyond sport.”

The TASS-supported athletes competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics are as follows:

VI Alpine Skiing

  • Menna Fitzpatrick (14/15, 15/16) & Jennifer Kehoe (guide)

Wheelchair Curling

  • Aileen Neilson (06/07, 07/08)

Anna Turney in action at Sochi 2014