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Paralympian Jonathan Adams talks to Janie Watkins at SWSA
 Posted on Tuesday, September 25 2012 @ 14:25:05 UTCby admin
Snooker South West Snooker Academy
Edison Close
Waterwells Business Park
Tel: 01452 223 214

Sunday 16 September 2012

How did you first get interested in snooker?

"I've always been interested in snooker, purely because when I was growing up through my sport I was always having to try and adapt my disability to what I was trying to achieve in my sport.

So looking at players and how they have to adapt their own games in order to make it fit around them in terms of how they perform on the snooker table, I felt that could be a challenge that I could look into to try and improve my mental attitude towards my own sport.

Did you start by being a fan?

Yeah I used to watch the World, UK and all the big rankings tournaments on the television. Obviously the game's grown and grown. I used to have a little six foot table in my conservatory and I used to come from school every day and spend hours out there, just potting balls, because it's what I just loved to do and it was something I could do and that was safe when I was younger.

Before I had my surgery and was able to go out, with my legs, it was quite dangerous for me to go outside and do the things that other kids were able to do at that time.

So for me I found something that I was interested in such as snooker and it really took off from there and I started to enjoy the technicality and skill of it really.

"Read More..." for Janie's exclusive interview with Jonathan Adams.

Who were your heroes and favourites?

Ronnie's always been one of my favourites, not necessarily because of his talent, although he's got a tremendous talent; more because of the mental approach he takes to the game. I think it's very important to look at in terms of how a player performs.

Because in an individual sport like snooker, or athletics like myself, you've got to be able to channel yourself to one direction and one direction only.

You can do all the practice in the world but when you're out there on the field of play it's just you and the table, it's you and your competition.

To see how Ronnie goes through his highs and goes through his lows and then how he's able to turn that around and come back from it and win, like the World Championships this year.

It just goes to show there's a mental side to sport, and that's why I love snooker because it can't always go your way.

Such as the way the balls run or if your opponent plays some amazing snooker, you have to be able to 'kind of' retract from that in a sense, and go away, and come back and try to bounce back and perform well.

That's one of the reasons why I've always loved Ronnie, because I have to do the same in my sport, so I can relate to that quite closely.

What's your highest break at snooker? Thirty-seven in competition.

How did you first become a sportsman? How did you travel to path to become a Paralympian?

It came through my parents mainly. My mum and my dad used to be heavily involved in sport. My mum was a county thrower doing discus and shot put and my dad was involved in the fitness industry.

They used to body-build together semi-professionally before she fell pregnant with me and obviously we've had our ups and downs during that time, but they really kind of started the pathway to my athletics career.

Then from there they used to both coaching me until I got my coaching at Loughborough. The way they've both helped to develop me in terms of giving me support, in terms of family, but also in trying to push me on to that next level, in wanting the best for your children, the best for the situation that we were in.

So they got me really involved. Then as I grew as an athlete and grew in maturity as a person we started looking for a coach. I struggled for years to find a coach really because when we were looking at disabled sport, they didn't really know how to include or coach a disabled athlete so they basically took it upon themselves for 6 to 8 years to coach me and get me into the GB Team off their coaching. I've had two coaches now, so it's been a big journey.

To be a part of it and have support like that helps you to remember the people who have impacted your life and done so much work to get you where you've got to. And obviously when you reach things like the Paralympics and other major events, it's just makes you appreciate and realise that there are people out there to support you and wish you well, and that's something that's very close to my heart.

I see them every day when I'm at home and not in university, but even when you're out on the field of play they're still with you, even though you're on your own. It's exactly the same as when you're playing snooker or any other sport. There's always people behind you and behind the scenes that help you develop to get to where you've got to and then, of course, as you grow as a person, you can carry that forward on your own.

So to have them around and to get them help me to where I've got, is a real honour for me to still be a part of them and have them always with me. So that's really how I got involved in the sport and, obviously, it's just gone from strength to strength.

Growing up with a disability. Is sport or physical therapy something you'd recommend, whether a person becomes a Paralympian or not?

When I was growing up, I had a lot of problems with the way my legs were, in the way they functioned, in the way I was disabled. I had a lot of hydrotherapy work, basically like a jacuzzi pool in a sense, a great way to let your body relax and be able to do therapy at the same time. So that was a really good way for me to activate my muscles.

Because my left side is a lot weaker than my right side. Due to that I get a lot of muscular imbalances and struggle to keep my balance and walk and stuff like that. So being in the water I was then able to try and strengthen both sides.

Now, being older, we've tried to prevent the issues as much as possible. Although there are still underlying problems that will be with me until I pass away, my disability isn't something that can be cured and I've had it from birth, so I don't really know any different in a sense.

Just to be around that kind of support since I was young it's just enabled me to have the kind of life style I have now.

If you'd asked me ten or fifteen years ago if I'd ever be in the position I am now, I would never have believed it was possible. It's down to my parents hard work and dedication really, as much as myself. They've been able to build a package around me which has got me to where I am today.

You have undergone a number of operations, you mentioned having your hip broken to realign your legs? I'm sure people can't imagine what that could be like?

It's difficult, but at the end of the day when I was going through those times it was very difficult for me to stay motivated and stay positive.

The reason why I had the surgery done is because I wanted to try and walk for as long as possible. If I hadn't had the surgery I would be in a wheelchair full time now. I would be in a lot more pain than I am now and that's not something that I didn't want. I'd be perfectly happy with that but I wanted to try and be self-dependent and be able to do things on my own.

Of course everyone needs care and to have people around them, but I've always had so many people give me so much, that I almost feel that it's time for me to give something back to them.

Through all the surgery that I've had and the operations, and breakages, and all the bits and pieces inside my leg now to keep it where it is. It's just been a massive roller-coaster but to get to where I've got to now, so young, is just kind of repaid everyone for all the hard work and dedication they've put into me.

Because without them I wouldn't really probably have had the opportunities that I have now and be in the position I am now, talking to you.

To have those people around you, is always a very close thing to my heart. You always remember the people who really kind of gave you the platform to go off and achieve what you have today.

Was the reward for them to see you walk out into the Olympic Stadium to take part in the Paralympics? Just what did it feel like to walk out in front of that amazing 80,000 crowd?

It was absolutely mind-blowing. It still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it, purely because of the effects it's had on my life.

I went to watch the competition earlier. Our Team Captain Steve Miller was competing in the club throw on the opening Saturday and we all went there to support him.

We thought 'Wow' this is loud for a morning session, but then when you actually go out there yourself - words can't really begin to describe just the feeling that you get.

It's almost like a wall of noise. The noise follows you round the track if you're a track athlete. And it's literally like being at a huge live gig 24 hours a day with 80,000 people screaming at you.

It was absolutely incredible. When I was competing my training partner Dan West was on in a separate pool to me. Because there were fifteen of us they split us up into two pools as it would have taken too long to get us all through otherwise.

To be there in that kind of environment with two British athletes and also Steve Morris, one of our visually-impaired runners. He was out there doing the 1500 metres and he got a Bronze Medal, so the noise was following him round and there was noise following us. To put it all together was just absolutely amazing.

Was it an inspiration or a pressure factor to receive all that massive support from the British public?

Definitely inspiration. The Games have really brought home how strong the Paralympics are across all the Paralympic sports that are out there now and across all the countries.

Beforehand, such as Beijing and other competitions we've not always had the opportunity to 'put ourselves on the map' as such.

I think that now due to the coverage that was aired by Channel 4 and the work by our sponsors like Sainsbury’s it's enabled us to give ourselves a platform now to go off and say 'Hey look, this is us, this is what we're doing, this is what we're capable of, please support us for the present and support us for the future'.

Because we're just going to go from strength to strength. I think having that around us just inspired us to go out and smash our medal targets like we did and do some memorable performances which will go down in British sporting history.

That's what it's all about and I can come away from it and say I'm a part of history that will never be forgotten. That for me, just turning 20 years old this week, to have that accolade so young in my career is just something I will never forget and I'm very proud of.

Following the huge support from the British public for the 2012 Games, will it also serve to help raise the Paralympic profile in other countries around the world?

That's what I hope for. Even myself being involved in Great Britain and seeing all the sport, I've been to many able-bodied competitions and to many disability events, but I never in my entire life dreamed that 80,000 people would turn up, night in night out, just to see what Paralympic sport was all about.

To have that support has been just incredible and I hope now that other countries will see that and get behind their countries because they can see now the kind of results that people can produce when they have an audience and when they have people around them that believe , then they can really go out and show the world what they're capable of.

I think especially for Rio, being in that part of the world, in 2016, it will really give a platform for those countries who aren't really know yet in Paralympic sport.

They can really start to put themselves on the map as we have in London and then show the world how it's evolving around the world all the countries will be a force to be reckoned with in terms of competition.

That's ultimately what it's about. It's about inspiring a generation Seb Coe said for London and I think we've well and truly done that in the UK, but London and the Paralympic movement doesn't stop, it evolves. I hope that the legacy will continue. The kind of atmosphere and kind of legacy we've created, I hope will continue to Rio and beyond.

Can anyone in the world with any disability draw inspiration from the achievements of the Paralympians even if they don't have a sporting ambition?

Definitely. When I was growing up, I was always looking for people to aspire to be like. For me, because I went to a main stream school I was always aspiring to be like everyone else in the school.

To be able to run and play football, and play rugby and hockey, to just do the little things that everyone takes for granted.

But due to my physical limitations I wasn't able to do all the things I wanted at the same level as them.

For me with the way that sport helped me through school it just enabled me to educate the people around me to disability sport and just how powerful it can be and what it can do for people.

Often people growing up with disabilities will think that the world is against them in a sense, but if you've got a dream I'd say 'Just Go and Follow It'.

My dream was always to be able to represent my country in the Paralympic Games, but I never thought, during my surgery or after my surgery, which took four years to complete, that I'd actually be sitting here talking to you now in this great Academy saying 'I've made it, this is me' and hopefully knowing I can go on to bigger and better things in the future.

So for people in all sports, not just athletics, not just snooker, and whether they're able-bodied or not, they have a brilliant opportunity to be able to make themselves somebody and whether they make it to the top level or not, they should be proud of what they've achieved, if they've dedicated themselves in adequate fashion and believed in their abilities, to be able to give themselves the best fighting chance.

Sometimes fate will decide just how far you can go, but if you've given yourself the best chance you possibly can, then you can walk away from the sport if you have to, or once you've finished your career, you can walk away with your head held high and say 'I gave it 100%'. Maybe it wasn't meant to be but look what I've learned and look what I can carry through into the future. I think that's what it's all about.

I've had many opportunities and also many times in my athletics life when it didn't quite go to plan.

I've never been injured, touch wood, but I was always having to go through surgery or having to go a step back in a sense. It was often like taking one step forward and two steps back, and that meant I had to realise very quickly what I wanted from life. That's when I decided I really wanted to pursue Paralympic sports. But then once I'd got there I wanted to help other people get to where I've got to.

Ultimately that's what it's all about. It's about telling the future, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's doesn't always seem that way in the beginning. I never saw myself being at the level I am now and I've achieved if through, of course my own hard work and dedication, but with the support of the people around me.

So it's always very important to recognise the people that are around you and appreciate people and the facilities that are available to you. And really to grab everything by the scruff of the neck and take advantage of what's available to you.

I know people would give an arm and a leg for facilities like this where we are in Gloucester, or to be where I am in Loughborough training with my group.

So if you've got the opportunity, got the chance, take it. Follow your dreams and follow your aspirations, because that's what I've done and, thankfully, it's led to be being in the Paralympic Games.

You've taken a well deserved rest for a week down here at the South West Snooker Academy following the Games and the Parade. How did you first hear about SWSA?

I saw the Academy from watching the live streaming of the PTC events, so I'd been watching those and saw all the facilities and I also have spoken to Jack Lisowski and a few of the professionals about the set up here.

It's always interesting to talk with other sportsmen and they were also interested in my story, coming from another elite level of sport.

Obviously being able to talk to people like that with their involvement in their own sport. You hear their stories and where they travel and I'm quite a nosey person in a sense. I like to know what people are up to! Because I know people have been very interested in me and I almost feel that it's out of respect that I pay interest in them.

It's about building bridges, it's about building connections and it's about breaking down boundaries. I think if you can bring people together, from all areas of the world and all sides of sports, whether they're disabled or able-bodied, whether it's athletics, snooker, basketball you name it.

If you can bring people together, create a network of people, like you have here, then it can only mean good things for the future.

That's the beauty of being in an Academy like this. The fact that you welcome all abilities of people and welcome all people with open arms, and do what you can to develop snooker and I think that's shown by the people that are here in the Academy, like the professionals who use the facility, the staff and the network that Paul Mount's built up in such a short space of time.

When you think back to myself in Paralympic sport, I've only being doing 'seated throwing' just over a year. To already be where I am so young, just imagine what I can do in four years time.

Of course we've got other competitions before that. We've got the World Championships next year in France and of course that's going to be one of my main aims. But to see the development in myself so young and with the opportunities that I've been given it's only going to mean good things for my future as I get older.

It's exactly the same for SWSA and the budding young snooker professionals that want to be the next 'Ronnie' or the next 'Judd' or 'Hendry' or 'Davis'. They've got the opportunities here to start the team and that's what it's all about. Creating a team and inspiring a generation to go out and be there in the future.

Would you have a piece of advice you'd give to young snooker player?

Definitely. One of my mottos is 'Don't just dream it, DO IT'.

The reason why I came up with that is because when I was in hospital I had a major bleed of my hip bone.

When they took the plate out of my hip, they'd stitched it back up obviously after the surgery, but it bled internally and they changed my bed sheets and they were soaked in blood, the bed was just full of blood.

They wanted to put me on a transfusion and they didn't know whether they'd have to re-operate on me straight away and take the metal out and then operate again and that's when the alarm bells were ringing and I really thought 'oh my god this is all happening, what do I do?'

But somehow I was able to stay relaxed and just let the people do their work around you and work with them rather than against them. For me that's why, through everything I've been through I've just had a dream and no matter how difficult it's been I've just tried to do what I can to make that dream a reality.

Of course having facilities like this and the Coaches that are here can only be a good thing.

To help work with people like Shane Castle, in order to inspire him, and others, to keep plugging away, keep playing, keep practising, because eventually he will create something that he'll be very proud of, whether he gets to the top or not. All being well, hopefully, he will go on in the future to be a rising star in the game and potentially be a World Champion one day, you never know.

Just through my experiences it's really made me appreciate what I've got around me and the people I've got around me and just take that from strength to strength and try to repay them for the work they've done.

I have a story, but it's not just all about me, it's about the other people who are around me because with them I wouldn't be here.

So it's very important to remember that and appreciate their work. Then you just go away and 'do your bit' and then you can be proud of yourself, you're proud of them and they're proud of you. So everyone wins at the end of the day.

Who are your heroes or role models in the Paralympics?

I would definitely say Oscar Pistorius is one. I know him very well as a personal friend. It's obviously very good for me to be around people like that. Purely because of his story when he was growing up and to see where he's got to now. It's just be an amazing journey for me to be part of.

I used to watch him growing up as a child and think oh I'd love to be that good or at that level. Now look at me fifteen years later and I'm sitting here as a Paralympic Athlete. I've done it.

On a personal level Dan West, one of my training partners. His cerebral palsy is virtually identical to how mine used to affect me before I had the surgery and we're in the same event. We're in the same Classification in terms of the way our disability affects us.

To see how he was performing when he was younger and I was growing up really just kind of inspired me to say 'if this is what he can achieve then I can do the same there's no reason as to why I can't and if there is a reason then I know I've got the people around me to try and put the things in place to try and neutralise as many potential problems as possible'.

So to have people like that and, of course, Dave Weir, 4 Gold Medals in the Paralympics. You can't get much better than that.

I shared a house with Dave Weir. thankfully I was able to do that, along with a couple of other phenomenal people. To have that sort of network around you, that's what's key. You're a team.

And you're a team here at SWSA, in a beautiful setting, out of the way, just able to plug away, work at the snooker, help develop peoples’ games and work for the future because that's what it's all about. For players to have that support around them is great and I hope it continues long into the future.

So what's next for you now?

I'm having a few days at home to be with the family and then I head back to Loughborough on 26 September to begin my University Degree in Social Psychology for 3 years.

Then I'll start training again in mid-October ready for the World Championships next year. That will be in Lille, in France and thankfully that's not too far to travel for once. We can just hop over the Channel easily, rather than some of the amazing places I've been around the World, but they were difficult journeys and took long hours to get to, so it's nice to be somewhere close to home.

With everything that's going on now I still struggle to comprehend everything that's happened in the last month. I literally just can't put my head around it.

To have been here this week and, in a sense, just get away from everything and everyone, and be in a place like this and do something I love and meet some amazing people has meant I could just have fun.

That is what's sport is all about. You need to have fun as well as the serious side of it. When you're on your own and training on your sport, the ultimate thing you need to do is enjoy it.

Your enjoyment makes you want to play the game and the more you enjoy it then the more you enjoy the time you put into the sport and the more you want to persevere and better your performances, get stronger, or get faster or better your cue action, your technique, in whatever sport, and prove to yourself what you're actually capable of when you really put your mind to it.

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