The Combined Services Disabled Ski Team (CSDST) is building up to a key season of racing ahead of the 2014 Winter Paralympics.
The team, made up of disabled serving and ex-military personnel, is looking to bring to the piste the enthusiasm for disability sport generated by this summer’s Paralympics. Two of the six-strong performance squad are already on the British Disabled Ski Team and working towards competing at the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
Captain Anna Poole, from the Adjutant General's Corps, was in the GB luge team and on the verge of qualifying for the 2006 Winter Olympics when she was injured in training. Her left knee and foot never fully recovered and she chose to have her leg amputated at the knee last June.
The 35-year-old said: “Skiing has rebuilt my confidence and fitness and I think it’s doubled the pace of my recovery, both physically and mentally.
“I broke myself trying to get to the Olympics and it would feel like the right karma to make it to the Paralympics. It’s my first season with CSDST and it will be a tough challenge to qualify, but I aim to be at Sochi and follow that up with a medal at the next Paralympics in Pyeongchang in 2018.”
Also new to the team is paratrooper Private Kingsley Ward, who lost both his legs and right arm in an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2010.
The 26-year-old said: “I’ve only been skiing for two years and this is my first competitive season, so my ambition is to perform as well as I can and see what happens.
“I was introduced to skiing during my rehab at Headley Court, going to Colorado with BLESMA and Bavaria with Battle Back. I’m used to being physically fit and training hard to keep myself in condition, so it’s been brilliant to have found a sport that keeps me in that mindset and gives me goals to work towards.”
Ex-Royal Marine Pete Dunning, who lost both legs in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Afghanistan in 2008, has been on the British team since 2010 and is looking to return to peak performance after a season blighted by injury.
The 27-year-old said: “This season is all about getting back on track for me and ensuring I qualify for Sochi. The key event for me is the World Championships in the Pyrenees in February, but there’s a lot of hard training to be done before then.
“This summer’s Paralympics has changed the country’s perception of disabled sport so much, opening people’s eyes to what disabled people can do. I want to do my bit to keep that spirit going into winter sports.”
The team has a busy schedule through the winter, starting with training on an indoor slope in Holland through October, with competitions starting next month and taking skiers to Austria, France, Spain and the USA.
Team director Major Ian Large said: “We are not about giving people an introduction to the sport or social skiing, we’re focussed on competition. We support our skiers to progress from competing in military events to international competitions, with medal-winning performances at the Paralympics the ultimate aim.”