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A Winning Mentality

One year into his degree, James Gall (Economics, 2017), a talented England U21 hockey player and British Universities and Colleges Sport Championship winner was “on top of the world”, until it all came crashing down.

 James Gall in action playing hockey


In a freak accident James fell 15 feet through a flat roof, hitting his head on the way down, causing traumatic brain injury.


“I don’t remember anything of the accident. My first real memories kicked in about two weeks later,” he explains.


“I broke my back in three places and fractured my skull. I was put in an induced coma and needed intensive care. I was extremely lucky to be alive.”


His subsequent recovery has been called miraculous. He relearned the game he loved and just three years later, with a degree in his pocket, James won bronze medal at this year’s Commonwealth Games with the England hockey team. 


But his recovery was far from easy. “Four months after the accident I was back at University but day-to-day life was tough. Physically I felt terrible. I needed a lot of sleep and woke up with headaches. Two consecutive lectures were a challenge and often, I couldn’t follow conversations.


“However I had amazing support – from the University’s Clinical Lead Physiotherapist Krista van Alten and all the hockey team, to student services and the School of Economics – they all helped to rebuild my confidence.”



“I had to work very hard to get back into shape. My first game back was Varsity 2016 and I was severely overweight. We won even though I was terrible, but it was the moment when I knew that playing hockey at the top level was something I needed to get back in my life. I didn’t want to waste my talent and I wanted to get back to my hockey family.”

“The Commonwealth Games experience was the best of my life. We were disappointed not to have made the final but winning a bronze medal felt like I could start to repay some of the faith and belief that people had shown in me.

“I’ve found the key to overcoming adversity is to find your support network and trust in it. When you’re struggling it’s hard to see the bigger picture but your support network can. I now know that whatever new challenge I’m handed, I will find a way to come through. Even if I don’t achieve all that I want, I can confidently say that I gave my all.” 

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Simon HarveyWords: Simon Harvey, Connect Staff Writer


One of life's story tellers. Lover of people and their narratives. Wonderer and wanderer. Journalist for more than 30 years and eternal defender of the written word.