DIAMOND Beach athlete James Turner estimates he’ll have to improve his personal best (PB) in the 800 metres by two or three seconds to strike gold at the Paralymics in Rio on Saturday September 17.
Turner, 20, was officially informed this week that he was in the side. He initially expected to find out by July 4. However, he said the delay didn’t cause any dramas.
“I was pretty sure I was going to be selected,’’ he said.
“But it did drag on a bit – I think that was because there was a delay in naming the athletics team for the Olympics.’’
Confirmation ends a whirlwind couple of months for Turner, who only started preparing for Rio after returning from England with the Australian Pararoos soccer team. He was a successful 800 and 1500 metre runner while at school and he was approached by an official touring with the Paraoos, who also has an association with athletics. After gaining a disability classification, Turner, who has cerebal palsy, clocked 2 minutes 8.8 in the 800m trials for the Paralympics. This was a new Australian record in his T36 classification. He’s since shaved a bit off his PB.
The Australian team will head to a pre-Paralympic camp in Florida on August 31. The Paralympics start on September 7.
There have been complaints from the Australian Olympic team about the accommodation in Rio and Turner reasons that these problems should be sorted in time for the Paralympics.
“They use the Olympics to get things right for the Paralympics,’’ he joked.
He’s currently ranked No 2 in the world for his classification. Turner said his main rivals for gold will be a runner from the UK and one from Russia.
“We won’t know until August 31 if the Russians will be allowed to compete,’’ he said.
“But I’m preparing as though he will be there.’’
Turner will look to build momentum when in camp to be at peak fitness for September 17. Waiting in the village for 10 days before competition doesn’t faze him.
He’s also following the fortunes of his former Pararoo team mates now playing in Denmark in the world championship qualifier, where they’ve had a win over Spain and a loss to Scotland. If he hadn’t decided to concentrate on Rio, he’d probably be with them. Should the Pararoos be successful they’ll play in the world championships in Argentina in 2017. He’s been playing at international level with the side since he was 16.
Turner isn’t sure if he’ll return to football after the Paralympics.
“I’ll see if I enjoy it in Rio first,’’ he said.
Given the Paralympics roll around every four years, he’s even pondering the possibility of mixing his two sporting passions.