James suffers from a genetic disorder called Retinitis Pigmentosa which causes a degeneration of the retina. This disease was diagnosed when James was 16 years old after he suffered from rapidly decreasing vision. He was legally blind at 21 years of age and completely blind by his early 30’s.
As a direct result of his declining vision, James focussed his sporting efforts on the fields of swimming and rowing and during the 1990’s represented Australia in both these sports as a disabled athlete.
In the mid 1990’s James decided to attempt the English Channel after meeting the inspirational Australian swimmer Des Renford and was successful on his first attempt in 1998. He then went on to successfully complete some of the most difficult marathon swims in the world over the next ten years including the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, The Strait of Gibraltar, New Zealand’s Cook Strait and the Catalina Channel.
In 2010, his accomplishments were recognised when he was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
In addition to his swimming accomplishments, James is the Ambassador for the Rainbow Club; a not for profit organisation which offers swimming lessons for children with disabilities, he is also a fund raiser for the Fred Hollows Foundation; which focuses on blindness prevention and indigenous health.
James works full-time for the Australian Tax Office, is married and has a three year old daughter.
- Kur-ring-gai Citizen of the Year (2000)
- Sir Roden Cutler Award for the Most Distinguished Sporting Performance by a Disabled Person (1998)
Summary of Accomplishments
- 1990 World swimming pool championships in the Netherlands
- 1994 Thailand National Championships
- 1994 The British Blind National swimming pool championships
- 1994 The Far East and Southern Pacific Championships (FESPIC) in Beijing China
- 1995 World Rowing Championships
- 1998 Perth to Rottnest Island
- 1998 English Channel (Only Blind person)
- 1999 Perth to Rottnest Island
- 1999 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, USA
- 1999 Manly Beach to Queenscliff beach (23 laps)
- 2000 Perth to Rottnest Island
- 2000 Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket Island swim, USA
- 2000 Manly Wharf to Darling Harbour (Fund raiser for Paralympians)
- 2001 Perth to Rottnest Island
- 2001 Palm Beach to Manly Beach (Fund raiser for the Rainbow Club)
- 2002 Perth to Rottnest Island
- 2002 The Strait of Gibraltar, Spain to Morroco
- 2003 Perth to Rottnest Island
- 2003 Bordighera Italy to Monaco for the World Sport for Good Foundation
- 2003 The Chesapeake Bay Swim, USA
- 2003 A double crossing San Francisco to Alcatraz, USA
- 2004 The Cook Strait, New Zealand
- 2004 The Parana River, Argentina
- 2005 The Vaal River, Johannasberg South Africa
- 2005 Gokceada to Anzac Cove, Turkey
- 2006 Mai Khao Beach to Patong Beach, Thailand
- 2006 The Catalina Channel USA
- 2006 The Mana Island swim Fiji
- 2007 Capitola Pier to Santa Cruz, USA
- 2007 The Pennock Island Swim, Alaska USA
- 2007 Cleggin Pier to Inishboffin, Ireland
- 2008 Sydney Harbour Bridge to Manly Wharf and Manly Wharf to North Steyne Beach (Fund Raiser for the Paralympians)