At the recent Slide 2 Sochi and Go Ski Go Board announcements alongside two other British Ski Cross racers was Pete Whelan. Almost the forgotten man of Ski Cross some may say, yet undeniably, the GB Male Number 1 at the moment. Whelan is passionate about his sport … of skiing: he has come from Alpine and was a hugely talented speed skier before making the switch across to Ski Cross. Here he explains how he is going about getting himself back out in the public’s mind and promoting his sport at the same time…
“After the success of our athletes in the Olympics last year, it was clear to see the elation sport can bring, not only for the victors, but for an entire nation. Through sport some of the greatest fairy tales are written right in front of our eyes, where years of dedication and endeavor create sublime moments of brilliance. Arguably the greatest stories are those of overcoming adversity, where all can appear lost, yet against the odds an athlete can show their worth and turn their destiny around. Itâ€™s moments like these which can unite and inspire people of all ages and walks of life and in part reflect the true nature of what it is to be human.
Iâ€™m a winter sports athlete and I compete in a thrilling and dangerous ski racing discipline called Ski Cross. For those who havenâ€™t yet seen it, itâ€™s similar to motocross with big jumps and side by side racing, except you donâ€™t have brakes. The idea of the sport is to beat your opponent (normally racing four at a time) to the bottom, without crashing or being crashed into.
My goal is to win a gold medal next February at the Winter Olympics in Russia, however at the start of December last year whilst training before a World Cup event in France, things didnâ€™t go quite to plan. I was involved in a high speed accident; I suffered a severe concussion that left me with bouts of vision loss, memory loss and nausea in the hours following the crash. Subsequently after returning home and undergoing an MRI scan, I discovered the most damaging news; Iâ€™d torn nearly all the ligaments in my right knee. The timing couldnâ€™t have been worse as it was the beginning of the Olympic qualifying period and due to the severity of the injury sustained to my knee, there was a chance that following surgery I wouldnâ€™t walk properly again, let alone ski. Itâ€™s difficult to clearly describe how I felt, faced with the possibility that my lifeâ€™s work and dreams may have of slipped away in less than a tenth of a second, I felt cold, numb and empty inside and I wanted the ground underneath me to swallow me up.
In February of this year I woke up in hospital after having a five hour operation to rebuild my knee and received the first piece of good news since the accident, the surgery had been a success. It took a couple weeks following surgery for the inflammation that caused my knee to resemble more of a balloon than a body joint and the unrelenting soreness to subside and become bearable. Amidst the agonising early rehabilitation exercises and the brief scare of an infection in the wound, I started to dream of competing again.
With the support and patience of my family, friends, physiotherapist and sponsors over the last 7 months Iâ€™ve made exceptional progress with my recovery. After many hours of rehab training each day, whilst trying to earn a living, my self belief has grown, in what has been the most physically painful and mentally demanding few months of my life. With only a few months left until the return of winter, Iâ€™ve now been given the all clear by my surgeon and physiotherapist to begin practicing again on snow, which means that I will get a second chance to qualify for the Olympics. This news has only inspired me to work harder, so when December comes and Iâ€™m back in the start gate, I will be ready to do whatâ€™s needed to get to the games and bring home gold for Britain.”
Watch out next week for the interviews between Pete Whelan and Ed Drake…