A CEREBRAL palsy sufferer who has overcome prejudice and adversity to build a successful career as a zumba instructor has been recognised with two nominations for coaching awards.
Sam James, 34, of Old Town, turned to fitness training after being made redundant from her job in investment banking.
Last November, she enrolled in a training course at the Links Centre, followed by a zumba instructor programme.
She is now employed by Swindon and Wiltshire Councils and teaches not only people with special needs and disabilities but able-bodied clients.
Less than six months after qualifying she is now up for most inspirational instructor in the south and most outstanding support for activities for adults with additional or special needs at the What’s On 4 Me? awards.
The nominations were the crowning of months of hard work and a lifetime of unflagging effort to make her mark.
“I was really surprised,” she said. “I’ve done so much in a year. It’s shown me that my decision to become an instructor was the right one.
“I qualified in February as a zumba teacher and I finished my gym training in January.
“I feel like I’m inspiring people and getting them to lose weight, get fit and have fun.
“There is nothing holding people back except for their own mindset.
“It’s about focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t do.
“If there are moves that I can’t do I don’t put them in my routine.”
She added: “It would mean everything for me to win.
“It would prove that disabled people can be successful working in the industry. It would mean that everything I’ve been through is worth it.”
Sam stopped breathing when she was nine weeks old, starving her brain of oxygen.
She now suffers from a slight speech impediment, poor grip in her left hand and weak right leg muscles. Although an inspiration to many and living proof that people with disabilities have a place in the fitness world, she is aware that there is still some way to go to overcome intolerance in the industry.
“Though I’ve been successful there are still people who look down on me because they don’t want a disabled instructor,” she said.
“There is still some bias in the industry. I think it will take time for these barriers to actually come down.
“But I’m doing my bit to help. I am proof that there is room for disabled instructors out there.”
All awards are voted for by the public. To vote for Sam visit www.whatson4me.co.uk/award-voting.asp.
A shortlist will be announced on October 1 ahead of the award ceremony at Earl’s Court on November 20.