James Roe is out to prove that asthma should not stop people from chasing their sporting dreams, no matter what they may be.
The 22-year-old from Kildare is a professional Indy Pro 2000 driver now based in the United States.
While racing is his career, the man from Naas has tried his hand at every sport under the Irish sun growing up, including Gaelic football, soccer, rugby and more. Roe did all this while dealing with the effects of asthma from a very early age.
Speaking to Shane Hannon on Off The Ball, Roe discussed how he has not let his asthma hold him back.
“It is certainly not an easy condition,” Roe said. “I was diagnosed with it when I was about eight or nine years of age.
“I had it growing up quite bad, especially in the winters in Ireland once the weather got cold. It hindered things from a sports point of view; when competing in sports I had to be very careful and always carrying inhalers.
“I had an uncle who died from an asthma attack many years ago when he was 10 years of age,” Roe said.
“So, it has a serious note within the family, obviously we lost a family member from it.”
Roe does not let asthma get in his way
Roe turned professional at the age of 20, and almost immediately began thinking about how he could use his new platform to help promote awareness for asthma.
“The bottom line was, when I turned professional in 2019, I was in Formula Three, I got my first win, in front of 8,000 people, that is all great,” Roe said.
“That winter, when I was at home with my family and we were just having dinner and chatting and talking about random stuff, something just clicked.
“I said, ‘now we are actually racing in front of fans, it is a platform’. Asthma is a serious thing, and I should be doing something about asthma awareness and utilising the platform.
“We spoke about it and though what was the best way to go about it, so when I got back to America and the Indy car came and I got on that package, I reached out to various different organisations and companies here in America.
“The one that really stood out was the [Allergy and Asthma Network] of America, because they are across the board the number one asthma awareness network not for profit in America who are associated with a lot of the big pharmaceuticals who manufacture a lot of the asthma products.
“It wasn’t just awareness, you kind of were involved in something bigger; designing products that can better peoples’ lives down the road.”
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) April 24, 2021
'If I can do it, you can do it'
Ultimately, Roe’s campaign for asthma awareness is focused on proving to children and people with asthma that the diagnosis should not stop them from going after their sporting dreams.
“We have been having a really successful campaign,” Roe said. “Obviously the pandemic got in the way of a lot of it.
“We planned to do a lot of stuff at the track with young kids who have asthma or are struggling with it.
“The reality is that there are kids out there who let it hold them back, and say, ‘Oh I have asthma, [in America] I can’t play American football, or I can’t play baseball’, or even in Ireland who say, ‘I can’t play Gaelic football’.
“So, our concept is to basically use me as an example of somebody who played all the sports growing up, every sport you can name in Ireland, to come over here and compete in a sport with a lot of fumes, burning materials and tyres and travelling up to 200 mph in some places.
“Our heart-rate goes over 160, maybe even 170 beats in a race. You put yourself in an environment where it is not ideal for an asthma patient and the message is, well if I can do it, you can do it and there is no reason why not.”