James Owen Roberts is an Amputee Empowerment Coach, host of The Mindset Athlete Podcast, TEDx speaker and author with over 15 years of experience in exercise, diet and mindset as a coach, 2 x Paralympic athlete and alum of both Swansea University and the University of Chester.
I was a few days old when my mum was told at first I had hip dysplasia but after further examination, it was discovered that it was much worse than that, I had a small fibula, had a small tibia and no femur, and the radiographer went as far as saying “I shouldn’t be able to walk” let alone do some of the things I later went on to achieve.
A few months later, my grandmother said to my mum, “What is James going to do, how is he going to cope and what if he is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.”
Early in primary school/elementary school also wasn’t a walk in the park, my mum found me playing in the sandpit all alone and my friends were playing off somewhere else, and she asked me “have they left you here or are you playing by yourself?”
I Learned to swim butterfly a lot earlier than most, I was 11 or 12. It was something my coach Mike Stone and my mother came up with together.
“How can we make his disability an asset?”
And by that time, I was starting to be quite well built in the upper body.
I faced yet another moment of adversity at 15 because my mother had enough of me falling academically! From the age of 3 until 15, I had always been in the Belgian Section on the NATO base, I grew up on in Belgium, however, once I was in high school I started to fall behind academically and was labelled a failure and even one of my teachers went as far as saying “I wouldn’t amount to anything.” I had already had to repeat the 8th grade and my mum didn’t want to go through that again in the 9th and beyond so thus I went to the American section.
When it came time to apply to Universities because I was told for so long in the Belgian school system that “I wouldn’t amount to anything”, self-doubt crept in and I started believing that statement to be true and I even found myself second-guessing myself and whether or not I should even apply to go to University, thinking I wasn’t good enough to attend university and I thinking I would be out of my depth.