Joel – My Story
Hi, my name is Joel James and I’m 16 years old. Two years after I was born, I was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy which was caused by a double brain injury at birth. My condition affects my walking and I have balance issues. My brain injury also causes me to have difficulty with processing information and I have been told I am on the autistic spectrum. The doctors informed my parents that I would struggle with mobility and need care for the rest of my life. In 2012 I had a major surgery at St Louis Children’s Hospital called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR). Whilst the operation reduced my spasticity I still wear leg splints and use a wheelchair and crutches for mobility.
Where it all began
I started taking part in sport in 2012, playing wheelchair basketball with the Newark Jaguars, I enjoy basketball but tried other sports as well including CP football, Archery, Horse riding and Boccia. However it wasn’t until I met Jamie Carter, a T34 wheelchair athlete, who competed in the 2012 London Paralympics that I found my sport. He let me try his wheelchair racer and I became hooked. I borrowed my first racer chair and 8 weeks later, I competed in my first race, The 2014 London Mini Marathon. In the same year after trying to unsuccessfully find a local athletics club to train with, I started at the Coventry Godiva Athletics club and training with my coach, Job King. The club is a two hour drive each way so my parents have racked up the miles taking me there each week to train. As I have got older I have got faster and have competed Nationally and Internationally in my sport. Taking part in this sport has improved my confidence and ambition as I now know I can compete to a high level in my sport. I am grateful to CP Sport Grand Prix events for helping me develop my confidence and giving me the opportunity to race in a number of their competitions.
I have competed in many athletic meets since 2014 and race in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 10000m and the mini marathon (3 miles). In 2017, I attended a training camp with the current T54 world champion and gold medallist wheelchair racer, Marcel Hug in Switzerland. Following the camp, I competed in my first international event, the Swiss Junior championships as an invited athlete. In 2016 and 2017 I was selected for the England North team at the School Games at Loughborough University. I am currently on the selection long list to represent England at the CPISRA World Games 2018 in Spain. I have competed in many CP Sports Grand Prix events and in 2015 and 2016, I was CP Sports Junior Male track athlete of the year. I also hold a number of CP Sport Age group records for various distances.
I started to become involved with Artic One Triathlons in 2016 and have completed two junior 5000m events with them, both of which I have won. Earlier this year I completed the swim part for the first time, in the Superhero celebrity team triathlon. There were many famous athletes there and our team came 9th overall, (David Weir’s team won). It was great, as the event was televised by channel 4 and I saw myself on TV fleetingly. I am currently starting my first year in Sixth form and enjoy photography. I challenged myself earlier this year when I took part in the NCS (National Citizen Service) which involved, spending several weeks away from my family, in various locations around the UK participating in outdoor pursuits and social action projects.
For my future plans, I want to continue my athletic career and would love to represent my country in a future Paralympics. When I was at junior school, I raced in a 20 metre event with my class mates, I was wearing splints and it took me a long time to complete, about 45 seconds or more I think. My dad still has the video. I came last, but everyone was cheering me on, now I can race the 100m in 18 seconds or the 1500m in 4 minutes in my wheelchair but the cheering of the crowd still drive me on to become faster and do better. My parents have now got lots of videos of my races. One of my best memories was from an athletics meet at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, when I qualified for the 1500m final and found myself racing against David Weir. He won the race but I finished with a smile on my face and a new personal best time. I would love to be a person who could inspire another athlete in their dream as he did for me that day.