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New Zealand

The first thing that ran through my mind (other than the thunderous crack of my helmet splintering against the ice) was oh #$%* this is gonna end of my season?  Let me give you a little bit of the calm before the storm…

New Zealand has been on my bucket list of places to travel/ski for a long time now.  It was my first time to the land of the Kiwi (bird) and it did not disappoint.  The objective was simple, get as much time training on snow as possible in preparation for the Paralympics in #Sochi2014

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We (team Canada) based ourselves in the town of Methven, just west of Christchurch, on the south island.  The drive to the mountains every day was pretty spectacular with sheer drops on either side of the road and no barricades.  It was a daily commute as the ski fields over there are just that, a ski field.  Not the resort communities that we’re used in North America.  It’s very simplistic over there, a day lodge to grab a flat white or a tall black and a couple of lifts to get you up the field.

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The hill was dynamic and the snow was hard which was ideal for a bunch of ski racers.  Training was fruitful with notable gains throughout the month.  Near the end of our trip we moved our camp to Queenstown for the New Zealand Winter Games.  It was nice to see a little more of the countryside, which resembled the emerald fields of the Lake District in the northern UK, both of which have too many sheep to count.  Words cannot really describe the dynamic beauty of the landscape that makes up the Wanaka valley… even this picture doesn’t do it justice.

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The final leg of the trip had some weight to it, as the NZ Winter Games were also technically World Cup races, which are qualifying events for the Paralympics.  Conditions were a bit dICY for sure and most of the field struggled to complete two good runs.  Somehow I managed to make fewer mistakes than most and put together a winning time.   My first World Cup win in Slalom was a great way to start the season.

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After that we moved back to Mt Hutt for the speed events, which I was really excited about.  After negotiating my way down the iciest track I have ever skied, crossing the line in 3rd position. I tried stopping in the ridiculously icy finish area to dump my speed before the fences (imagine bambi on ice).  Out of nowhere I hit a bump, caught my downhill edge and high sided at top speed. It was a direct body check / head slam against the ice that splintered my carbon fibre helmet (thanks GIRO for saving my life) and did something horrible to my shoulder / upper arm.  I looked at my trainer and said pick me up bro… I gotta get outta here now!  He helped me to the base area and into my chair where I awaited further diagnosis.

The last thing a guy in a wheelchair needs is a busted arm?!  The harsh reality started pumping through my brain.  How am I gonna get on the toilet? How am I gonna get home?  What’s Lacey gonna think about this?  Is Sochi off the radar?

There was a bit of relief when the XRays came back negative and the consensus was severe bone bruising and a 2nd degree tear to my rotator cuff.  The diagnosis was that I would be semi – mobile in a few days and that the shoulder would fully recover in 6-8 weeks.

It was a long and slow moving trek home, filled with plenty of time for personal reflection. After a few weeks of rehab and managing this injury, my shoulder is starting to feel more stable.  This subtle reminder of the risks involved in what I do will certainly have an impact on the decisions I make as I move forward.

The big question: Sochi? Da! (Yes)