James Tyler – Man with a Winning Smile

James in 2012 with some of his medals

One thing I share with James Tyler is that we were both born in Weston-super-Mare, but unlike James I have never shown any athletic ability and I came to Pembrokeshire somewhat late in my life.

James’s mum grew up in Pembrokeshire and though he has lived in a number of other places, he is lucky to have now spent half of his 30 years here.

Due to health issues James spent a great deal of his young life in special schools. It was when at school in Bridgwater that he attended his first championship. The West of England Athletics Championship, held in Exeter, was where he  first qualified for the 4 x 100 relay to be held at the Blackpool Games . He was to pocket his first two gold medals there.

Encouraged by his mum when he reached 18, James went on to join the Pembrokeshire Harriers. He was then at Pembrokeshire College and began training with the Harriers for two days a week. At the time, James tells us, he was the only person with a learning disability  to compete with them on the athletics side.

Up until this point James was more able than the other people in his Disability Support Group. Now he began to train and compete in earnest and to show what skills he had.

“In 2009 I started to take part in competitions with the Harriers  and was able to compete in the Special Olympics GB in 2010.”

The first Olympics for James was an indoor competition  in Cardiff in March of that year, where people from  all across the UK took part. He came away with three silvers.

“After Cardiff I injured myself and missed one competition.”

That must have been frustrating?

James is very positive about the experience: “It helped me learn about how the body works. To take better care of myself. I learned  how slowly I had to come back.”

Competing later that year in Stoke-on-Trent, James tool a gold medal in the 200 metres and his team got bronze in the 4 x 100 relay.

Over the next few years James’s sporting career took him into a number of races in a variety of places and the medals piled up.

In Birmingham he competed in the West Midland Championship where he won silver in the 100 metres relay and bronze in the 200 metres

“Much of 2011 wasn’t a great year.  I had missed some training sessions and I wasn’t running as well as I could, but from August 2011 until  September 2012, I got back into it and I ran every single day.”

One of James’s best memories is of the championship he took part in in Russia. It was his first trip abroad and he loved it.

“We stayed in Moscow at first and I  got to see the sights. I had a chance to explore the city and I went to Red Square.  For the competition we flew  to the Republic of Mari El, which is part of the Russian Federation.”

James was in Russia for just over a week, returning to Wales with two golds and a silver.

James laughs: “I was  in the newspaper about five times.”

James in 2019

In 2013 he was picked to represent Wales for the national GB games held in Bath.

“I injured myself six weeks before the competition but made some recovery just in time. Unfortunately my legs were not really up to it, so I was pushed to do throwing.”

James won a silver for the shot put and remembers with some pride meeting singer Susan Boyle who was performing in the opening ceremony.

In 2014 he went to Ireland to meet an Ireland team. It was the weekend of his birthday and he had great fun.

“We were made to run in fancy dress,” he says laughing, “and I spent a lot of time choosing fun presents like novelty beer mugs to bring back to my family. People thought it was really funny.” He laughs again and reveals the joker in himself: “I am a bit of a comedian.” 

More trips followed, his final one to Germany in 2015. 

So at 30 years old what has happened to the athletics James?

“I got fed up with athletics. I didn’t do a sport for a few years but I have taken up indoor bowls and play in Milford.”

James with girlfriend Lucy 2019

James also started going to the VC Gallery for a while in 2016, but not for long. In 2019 he started to go back, this time in the company of his girlfriend, photographer Lucy Hinksman.

“I had to push myself to take part at first.” He laughs again: “Barry John, who runs the gallery, likes everyone to get involved. He doesn’t like people sitting in corner. He asked me who my favourite artist was and I didn’t really know but I did like the paintings I had seen by Vincent van Gogh. Barry gave me some books on his history and I have learned so much.”

James has since been working with an art group run by Pembrokeshire artist Anna Waters where he is learning more about landscapes and portraiture. .

The virus made 2020 a tough year. James likes to travel and to generally get out and about, and living in a residential setting he has found some of the time, in his own words, “deep and dark”.

“The first lockdown didn’t help, as there was no end date,” he says. “ I have watched a lot of  movies.”

You have our sympathies, James, and I am sure our readers will agree that we hope, you – and all of us – will soon be free to get out and about once more. 

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Kitty Parsons

Kitty Parsons

Kitty is an incomer, with five summers under her belt and the knowledge that even the wettest and greyest of winters have not diminished her love of Pembrokeshire. She knows she will never live long enough to be considered a local but hopes to leave some small mark through writing about this beautiful county and its people.

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