Jim Roberts insists he has no regrets over his decision to retire – even though wheelchair rugby is poised to enjoy its biggest moment in Wales in 2023.
Roberts – the try-scoring inspiration behind Great Britain’s historic gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics this summer – has decided to call it a day at the age of 34.
He admits there was a bit of arm-twisting within the sport to try and get him to stay on until 2023, when Wales will host the Wheelchair Rugby European Championship at the Principality Stadium, but that’s kind of the reason for him stopping.
Arm-twisting is more painful than it used to be - now he is into his mid-thirties after almost a decade as a Great Britain international.
“There were a few factors,” says Roberts, the Welshpool-born star who scored 24 tries in Great Britain’s 54-49 defeat of the USA in the Paralympic final in Tokyo.
“One was the long term injuries I have, which are getting progressively worse the longer I play in the chair.
“But there is also the fact that I work full-time. I have been trying to fit that in with being a full-time athlete, which is difficult and doesn’t leave much time for much else.
“I have other things that I want to achieve in life and so I had to cut something out. Rugby was the one that went.”
It’s the kind of calm, objective reasoning which Roberts brought to the hectic, over-heated world of wheelchair rugby, with its clattering collisions, occasional spills and non-stop action.
Since he became a GB international back in 2013, Roberts’ cool-headed approach has been a feature of GB’s ascent up the world rankings.
It helped deliver a fifth-place finish at the Rio Paralympics back in 2016, a European Championships title in 2017, and again in 2019, and then Paralympic gold in Japan at the delayed Games this summer.
Now, though, it’s time to rest those wheel-pumping shoulders and use that ice-cold concentration more frequently in the day job – as an architect with Corstorphine and Wright Architects in London.
“I haven’t played without some sort of pain for two or three years,” he admits.
“I had physio which was managing it and I had surgery last Christmas, but that didn’t really help.
“I have been trying to get it under control but it’s always been there in the background.
“But it just gets to a point where you’re not willing to make the sacrifices any more.
“There are not many athletes who get to sign off at the point where they want to after a big one like Tokyo. So, I feel quite privileged to be in that position.
“At the moment, I will be focusing on my architecture career and progressing that. The firm I work with, Corstorphine and Wright, have been really helpful and allowed me time off to go and train but now it’s time for me to put that time back in.”