Alumni: James Whitley Impresses at the PyeongChang Games

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Paralympic alpine skiier James Whitley (Prep, 2002-2011) has returned from the PyeongChang Games with several fantastic performances under his belt. He speaks to us about his experience and future plans.

What was your best moment in PyeongChang?

My first Paralympic Downhill (and my first Downhill race of the season!) coming 10th. The course was extremely long, nearly 3km. I was clocked at 94.9mph - possibly the fastest man on the mountain that day.

Did you achieve your own personal targets for the Games?

When I went to Sochi, I only took part in the Slalom and Giant Slalom races, as at 16 years I was too young to do the Speed events. At Pyeongchang, I raced in all five disciplines over 8 days. I had to get up at 4am each day, as the Olympic Village was a long way from the mountain. The variation in temperatures also added to the exhaustion (-16c in the morning, rising to +20c in the afternoon).

Of course I would have liked to come home with a medal, but after a gruelling week, coming 10th in Downhill and Slalom, and 11th in both Giant Slalom and Super-Combined races, I was quite pleased.

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Was it a different experience to Sochi?

Sochi was brilliantly organised. The Olympic Village was right on the mountain, and very close to the race course.  The Stadium was packed each day to full capacity of 10,500 spectators. PyeongChang was much more low key as it was deep in the countryside, 3 hours from Seoul. The racing, though, was excellent. On one morning alone (for the Giant Slalom) I believe they sprayed 750kg of salt on the course to preserve the snow!

Staying in the Olympic Village is a great experience; mixing with other athletes in other sports from 49 different nations. It seems the athletes were much better fed in the Village, than our friends and family who were struggling with the local cuisine!

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Can you tell us how you train and prepare for an Olympics?

I started race training when I was 8 years old. From then, my holidays, half terms and weekends were spent training. After leaving school, I became a full-time athlete. I have travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Canada. As well as time training on snow, I have had to spend a lot of time in the gym, as leg and core strength are vital. I also do quite a lo. Diet and nutrition is also an important element in my preparation, although I have to admit that I still struggle to eat any vegetables!

Living 'on the road' with a small group on people can sometimes be very hard.  I have missed spending time with friends, and holidays.  The support from my family though, has been so important... I'm not sure I could have done it without them.

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What are your best memories from Bede’s?

Playing cricket with Mr Pyemont. I owe a huge debt to him. Without his help and support during my prep school years, both with my skiing and general education, I would never have advanced in my sport, or make it to university.

What are your plans now?

Since returning from Korea, I have been able to relax with my parents on holiday - skiing! I hope to do a bit of travelling this summer, well away from snow, before starting university in September to read Politics and World Development.


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