He made history in 2018 as the first snowboarder to represent Great Britain at the Paralympic Games, but as we catch up with James Barnes-Miller, it’s clear the hard work is just beginning
For Para-Snowboarder James Barnes-Miller, Christmases lately haven’t offered much by way of relaxation. With England in lockdown, Barnes-Miller’s festive period was spent at home “recovering and doing physio”, the result of a training accident – “a slam that separated my AC joint,” he explains – that set the clock ticking on his recovery before the start of a crucial season.
“I think I spoke to Lawrence [Sonvico – GB Snowsport’s lead physiotherapist] every day. Then the first week in January, I spent a week with him in Sheffield for intense rehab, and after that it was straight back out to Finland to carry on the rehab there and get back on the snow.” With the first races of the season just weeks away, Barnes-Miller was in a race against time, especially when he realised the extent of the recovery process.
“The first week back out there, I still couldn’t pull out of a start gate, so that was worrying,” he says, with just a hint of understatement. “Training on snow twice a day, fitting the rehab around that. It paid off though – I came away from Finland with two silver medals.”
It’s work that continued paying off, as Barnes-Miller ended up in possession of the Crystal Globe at the end of a gruelling season, the result, he says, of careful planning and preparation. “The season before, I finished runner up, and we had loads to work on – so going one better was my goal. We sat down, wrote up a plan of what we needed to do to achieve it.” He almost makes it sound simple, until you realise, again, the references to putting the work in.
🥈 today which means I’m overall world cup winner for the season 🤙 Crystal globe baby 🤟 wahoo. Great racing by everyone and a big thanks to the team @gbsnowsport #parasnowboard #paralympian #snowboarding #snowboard #snowboardlife #gbsnowsports #boardercross #racing pic.twitter.com/I6TgW2DpQN
— James Barnes-Miller (@stubber89) April 2, 2021
Hard work is a recurring theme for Barnes-Miller – so often does he reference it that it almost feels like a mantra – but it comes as the consequence of being a part of a Para Snowsport squad which has seen its size and competitiveness increase with each passing year. There’s no doubt, though, that he relishes the competition. “It’s a great thing, being a part of the country’s biggest ever Para Snowsport squad,” he says. “In every discipline, we’re getting better and better every year.”
This year, of course, is a big one. Assuming all goes to plan, Barnes-Miller will be heading to Beijing for his second Paralympic Games having been the first ever snowboarder to represent GB at the Paralympics when he left the gate for his Snowboard Cross qualification run in PyeongChang. His seventh and tenth placed finishes in Snowboard Cross SB-UL and in Banked Slalom respectively are now a part of his story, but this time, he says, he’s learned to “treat it as just another race, and not let any distractions change that. At the last Games, I was just happy I’d made it, and I wanted to take it all in. This time I want to be super focused.”
He’ll be taking inspiration from outside the sport, too, having liked what he saw at the Summer Games in Tokyo, particularly the skateboarding – a sport for which he has a well-known passion. “I loved it! I watched a lot of the Olympics as I love sport, and honestly, I thought the skateboarding was the best spectacle.” Typically for Barnes-Miller, his thoughts were on the bigger picture too. “It wasn’t just the performance,” he says, “the presenting and the commentary was outstanding too. They absolutely smashed it.”
And what about Christmas this year? Will it be a last opportunity to get some downtime in before the Paralympics gets underway?
Not a chance.
“I’ll be in the gym every day”, he explains without hesitation. “Plus, I live in the mountains, so I’ll be out on my board so I’m ready to go straight into the World Championships in January.”
James Barnes-Miller is a man with a focus. You wouldn’t bet on anything stopping him.
James Barnes-Miller Biography
- Born: 1989
- Discipline: Para Snowboard
- Hometown: Broadstairs, England
- Top Result: Crystal Globe Winner, 2021
Header Image: James Barnes-Miller at Paracross-WC-Pyha. Photo by Simo Vilhunen-