Alumnus James Roberts graduated in 2013 with a PGCert in Sociology of Sport and Exercise. James competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has since set up his own business. In this week’s blog, we had a quick chat with him to find out more about his career as a paralympian and business owner…
Did your studies here at the University of Chester help you achieve what you wanted in your career?
“Yes, the course has given me skills which allow me to empathise with people’s sociological circumstances. But I did have to attain further qualifications to get into the fitness industry.”
What you have been up to since you graduated ?
“Since graduating, I set up my own personal training business (James Roberts Fitness) in 2015, and went to work in the corporate world, to get my ‘feet wet’. More recently, I have moved my business online (fitamputee.co.uk).”
I’d love to hear more about your experiences of being a paralympian?
“I’ve had many highs and lows along the way – it was quite a quick start, from only beginning in disability sport in 2002. By 2003, I had already broken onto the British Swimming’s Potential Squad. However by Christmas 2005, I had been dropped from programme. I went home from university thinking after the holidays I’d be back at university and a normal student again, but our Performance Director at Disability Sport Wales (DSW), Anthony Highest, had other ideas! He asked me if I would like to try rowing. I accepted the challenge, with probably a little bit of reluctance, but as they say, the rest is history! In short, I went on to compete at 3 world championships and finished 5th in the final of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics.
“The 2009 season began and there was talk of me being reclassified. I had a meeting with the Head Coach of GB Adaptive Rowing, Thomas Dyson; DSW Performance Director, Anthony Hughes; then Head Coach of Welsh Rowing, Ian Shore and my club coach at City of Swansea RC, to discuss the implications of the reclassification. It was to be my last season with GB Rowing.
“But both the team and I did our best to go with a bang and to try and finish with a medal at the 2009 World Championships in Poznan, Poland. But it turned out not to be. The boat however, went under the previous world best time – little consolation when you have been beaten by four other crews on the day!
“In my final year of my Sports Science degree, I was wanting to solely concentrate on my degree and possibly dabble with sport to keep me sane. With the London Paralympics only three years away at this point, I’m asked would I give sitting volleyball a go. I’m 100% certain now looking back at it that subconsciously I never wanted to put my sport on hold until I finished my degree.
“It was a bit more of a waiting game with volleyball than had been the case with rowing. However to my surprise at the time, I receive an unexpected call to the World Championships in Edmund, Oklahoma. I jumped at another opportunity to represent my country. The team were looking at going full-time and being based at Roehampton University in London. I’d had to make that same decision four years previously with rowing about moving, but this time was a little bit easier as I had fewer factors to consider.
“Since my retirement from performance disability sport, I have come back to Prestatyn, North Wales and have been involved in Wheelchair Basketball ever since. I have helped the Rhyl Raptors, and now more recently the North Wales Knights, climb the division ladders of Wheelchair Basketball in Britain. If it wasn’t for Disability Sport Wales and their staff, coaches and my family, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a ‘paralympian’.”
Could you tell us more about your podcasts? Have you interviewed any particularly interesting/famous people?
“The Mind Set Game podcast (which you can find here) is a bi-weekly show interviewing guests from the world of fitness, nutrition, psychology and sport. I’ve interviewed Ben Coomber, Professor Greg Whyte, Paralympic athletes from Canada and the USA, to just name a few!”
James’ future plans, including expanding the business and growing the brands of both the website and podcast. If you would like to be featured on the blog, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.