A long, long time ago, shortly after the invention of skis, I had the the pleasure of covering the World Disabled Ski Championships.
I was the editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin at the time and the ski hill perched on the edge of town secured the event, which is the downhill skiing equivalent of the World Para Nordic Ski Championships Prince George secured last week.
The name has changed because, as we all now know, different physical abilities don’t equate to a ‘disability.’ It’s just different.
As Len Apedaile, Head of Technical Control and Officiating for the World Para Nordic Skiing Sport Technical Committee (and holder of the world’s largest business card) stated last week in announcing the games “you’ll be amazed,” at what these athletes can do.
I’ve heard of visually impaired biathletes, but it will be something else to actually witness people with limited, or no, vision plunking off targets with their rifle.
It was the visually-impaired skiers who provided my favourite memory at the downhill games I covered so many years ago.
The visually-impaired downhill skiers compete, basically, on the same course that we sighted skiers shudder at.
They rely on a guide. The visually-impaired downhill skier has a guide who helps them through the course. The guide goes first and the competitor follows the sound of the sighted skier careening through the slalom poles. They are in constant communication. The sighted skier takes cues from the visually-impaired skier to successfully manoeuvre the course, as fast as possible.
The morning of the competition in Kimberley, a dense fog settled over the course.
Suddenly, the sighted skiers were at a disadvantage … not being able to see the course very well, if at all.
Throughout the day the visually-impaired skiers could be clearly heard communicating with their sighted guides: “Go faster, go faster.”
As Apedaile said, you will be truly amazed by what some of the athletes coming here in 2019 are capable of.
These will be world class athletes coming off the 2018 Paralympic Games in South Korea. It will be a great 10 days for the city. The hard work, however, starts now.