World and European Overall Water Ski Champion
Double Winter Paralympian (Alpine),
World Cup Gold Medalist (Alpine),
Winter X Games Medalist (MonoSkierX)
World WaterSki Champion
Born: 30th April 1971 - Middlesbrough, England
Live: St Neots, Cambridegeshire
Originally from the North East and now in Cambridgeshire, with my wife Leana and two Children Thomas and Lola.
Ever since i can remember the main thing in my life was always Sport and pushing my limits in whatever I did.
From a county standard Badminton player, cross country runner, North East Champion Gymnast to World Class BMX racer during my school days, I've always wanted to compete and win.
Leaving school I worked in a number of Health Clubs as a Fitness Instructor whilst taking 2 'A' levels at college. Busy times as I worked towards being a PE teacher in a school and was also heavily into MotorCycle Trials riding after my BMX days finished at age 16.
I realised University wasn't for me and I joined the Royal Air Force as a Physical Training Instructor in Nov 1989. A big step, some tough training at RAF Cosford but the best thing I ever did. The job suited me down to the ground; sport, fitness, adventure training, being part of a team, travel, leadership - i could go on and on. Great postings after my trade training at RAF Finningley (giving the Aircrew a hard time through basic trng) and then RAF Benbecula (running a gym up on the Isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides for 2.5yrs). As well as all the regular sports, I found a love for the outdoors whilst in the RAF and amassed numerous qualifications and experience in Kayaking, Mountaineering, Climbing, Top Rope and Abseil, Sailing, Skiing, Snow&Ice climbing and more...!
Then the dream posting in Germany, teaching Sail training and racing yachts all summer out of Kiel up in the Baltic Sea and around Denmark. In the winter Ski Instructing on the Winter Survival School in Bavaria, what more could I ask for?
One day whilst out with a group of Pilots Ski instructing on my local hill in Garmisch the grim reaper finally popped his head up and said, "You're having too much fun?"
On the 25th Feb 2000 my world turned upside down!
After a beautiful morning skiing on the Osterfelder with my students behind me, the sun was out and things going just great. I turned onto a marked run, only travelling slow, hit a build up of wet snow, my skis stopped dead and threw my weight over the tips of the skis. I tried to recover but was ejected from the bindings and landed head first like a Javellin into the hard pack. (shame the cheap skis I was issued didn't do the job.) I slid to a stop, immediately tried to sit up and looked down to see where my legs had gone? I couldn't move or feel anything from chest down...... It was obvious to me from that moment I'd broke my back, I hoped at that moment it was temporary. yeah as if? I can't explain the feelings and thoughts that go through your mind other than thinking a lifetime of sport as I knew it had gone…?
I was evacuated by the Ski Patrol and taken to Garmisch Hospital, the pain unbearable. My worse fears realised when the Doctor showed me the x-ray and joked, "You don't need to be a Doctor to see that's broken?" Pretty impressive x-ray, I must say (had it been someone else's?) Immediately they transferred me to Murnau Hospital after a short helicopter ride and operated on. They found the impact and the weight of my body had crushed a vertebra in my back (T8). Five weeks and five operations later; a vertebrae removed and a bone graft from my hip to form a new one, titanium holding me upright, a haematoma removed from the spinal cord and nearly two litres of fluid sucked from my lungs the worst was over. So I thought?
As a spinal cord patient you are unable to move or do anything for yourself depending on your injury level. Normal daily tasks become extreme chores, bodily functions pack up and you have tubes and tablets for everything. You become totally reliant on the nurses for your every need. Admiration and credit has to go to the nurses who treat Spinal Injuries they do an unbelievable job. But for me it was through this dependency that I lost a great deal of dignity and self respect. I craved independence and the ability to look after myself. But that I found would take some time?
After Hospital I attended the Defence Services Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Headley Court, Epsom. I worked hard on the Physical side trying to rebuild muscles wasted away from months of bed rest. I also started to regain some movement below my injury level as surprisingly my Spinal cord was not completely severed. Enough came back to enable me to stand supported, but not enough to walk or keep me out of a wheelchair!
To answer the questions I get asked, "Do you ever think why me?", "Do you feel bitter?" "To be honest, No!", when you look round the hospitals there's always so many other people worse off than you, so why them? 'Shit happens' and there's not a lot you can do about it afterwards. So why worry? You can either 'give up' or 'get on' and I can imagine it's not a very enjoyable life giving up - so it wasn't much of a choice for me!
I left rehab and lived with my parents for a while back in the North East (Redcar) until the RAF Benevolent fund bought me a house near by. They do a great job looking after x-servicemen.
I looked for my next challenge and started ticking off a list I'd made in hospital of Sports i thought would still be possible or that I'd still enjoy?
I looked for work and was offered the first job I applied for, Manager of a new Watersports centre on the River Tees. I took the keys of an empty £1.5m building and put everything I had into making it a success for the clubs dependant on the project. One of the clubs the centre hosted was the River Tees WaterSki Club and after attending a taster session with the British Disabled Water Ski Association I'd found a new sport.!
My first trip back on snow was with the a spinal cord injured charity called The Back Up Trust to Winter park, Colorado. We visited the National Centre for the Disabled who provided all the equipment necessary for us to give seated skiing a try. You can imagine I was pretty apprehensive, but this soon turned to an immense smile that lasted the whole 10 days. It still held a special place for me, the sense of freedom being back in the mountains was amazing. I was hooked - again...
I'd like to say a big thankyou to all the people that visited and phoned me in hospital. It meant so much (and those I still keep in contact with from the RAF)! Also, to my family and friends that have supported my dreams and followed my journey. To my current and future sponsors and supporters, without you all I couldn't do what i do..!!
Ski careful and wear a helmet!!