* MCT photo. Vanessa James wanted to compete for Bermuda in the Olympics.
* MCT photo. Vanessa James wanted to compete for Bermuda in the Olympics.
Local sponsors "turned their back" on future Olympic skater Vanessa James - when she needed them most!

James, whose father Kevin is Bermudian, had harboured a dream of lacing up her skates for Bermuda.

But according to grandfather, Carlton James, the Canadian-born athlete's pleas for financial backing fell on deaf ears.

He said: "We tried to get sponsorship but everybody turned their back and I believe that's one of the reasons why she left Bermuda.

"Nobody seemed interested at the time, not even my own boss at work. We tried all around to get sponsorship without any success."

James and her twin sister, Melyssa, had hoped to represent Bermuda at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy.

The siblings attended Mount St. Agnes School until they were ten and actually dabbled in football for a time before they were bitten by the skating bug.

But through a lack of funding they were forced to pursue their dream of skating overseas in the U.K.

Grandmother Ethlyn recalled: "They really wanted to skate for Bermuda but everybody turned them down. We tried to get some sponsors for them but no one seemed interested in sponsoring two young girls who just wanted to skate."

Mrs. James said even after her granddaughters left the island to take up residence in the U.K. further efforts to obtain sponsorship in Bermuda proved fruitless.

She added: "Even when they were away they tried to get sponsorship here saying how much they would love to skate for Bermuda. But nobody responded, it was like they turned their back on them.

"Now I look in the paper and read that Vanessa is a Bermudian. I just couldn't believe it after all we had gone through in the past trying to get sponsorship here."

Bermuda's loss turned out to be England's gain as the now 22-year-old James went on to become Britain's first black skating champion in 2005, while her twin sister is a former national solo ice dance champion.

Vanessa also won the French National Championship in pairs with partner Yannick Bonheur last year.

Earlier this week James and Bonheur made history by becoming the first black pairs skaters in Olympic history at the Winter Games in Vancouver.

Proud grandfather Carlton said had local sponsors come onboard his granddaughter might've been representing Bermuda in Vancouver instead of France.

"I was so proud when I saw Vanessa skate in the Olympics," he added. "She could've been skating for Bermuda."

James and pairs partner Bonheur finished 14th earlier this week at the Winter Games where they cemented their place in Olympic immortality.