The Oundle Lecture returned this year with a talk from Paralympian Anna Turney (K 97).

Anna was a promising snowboarder until an accident on the slopes of Yamagata in Japan left her paralysed from the waist down when she was 26. While recovering in hospital from her spinal injuries, Anna decided to get back into sport after a friend told her about a new Alpine sport called sit ski. The following year she took up mono-skiing and within a year she made her debut with the British Disabled Ski Team. Only four years after her accident, she qualified for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympics, where she came 6th. Four years on, she finished 4th, 6th and 8th for GB in Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympic Team in the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games. Over her years on the slopes Anna collected 57 career medals, including six World Cup medals.

Anna reminisced fondly about life in Kirkeby House with her housemaster, Mr Brittain, and said that if she had the opportunity to go back and pass on advice to her 17-year-old self, it would be to offer reassurance that she was actually more than “OK”, and that she should feel good about herself as a young woman.

Despite the setbacks she has experienced over the years, Anna has been determined to turn what are clear obstacles into opportunities. She talked about the three elements that she relied on to achieve success: working with a trusted team, establishing routines and setting goals. Alpine skiing is a dangerous sport and competing at elite levels adds extra levels of pressure and, she admitted, fear. She said that by focusing on performance rather than results, and by taking charge of her worries, she was able to accept and manage fear so that it did not inhibit her.

Anna expressed how grateful she has been for having so much family and professional support to offer encouragement, advice and training. She emphasised the importance of working within a team and learning from other people’s experiences.

Never shy about embracing new challenges, Anna has turned her experiences into a career as an executive coach. She works with corporate clients, and athletes for the International Paralympic Committee and the University of Birmingham, as well as working with young people of all ages to inspire them to try new things and be brave.