Aaron Ewen takes 2018 setback in stride to make Paralympic winter dream come true

After missing out on fashion four years ago, Aaron Ewen is just weeks away from finally being able to call himself a Paralympian.

The para-alpine skier was in exactly the same position in 2018, set to represent New Zealand at their first Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, before sustaining a serious injury with less than two months to go.

Fighting to win the selection for Beijing 2022 in March was the perfect way to end this chapter. But, in all fairness, the pain and disappointment of having to retire from the biggest event of his career didn’t last as long as most would have imagined.

At the time, Ewen had much more pressing issues to deal with.

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“Not going to the Paralympics sucks after everything you’ve done,” he said Things. “But then losing your leg to a bone infection, it sucks.”

Ewen was in the midst of preparing for PyeongChang 2018 when he fractured his hip during training, which would have been bad enough if he hadn’t suffered from a bone infection after the surgery.

It took another operation to clear the infection, leaving Ewen “a good five months without overdoing it.”

As difficult as it was to see his Olympic dream put on hold, the fear of losing his leg kept him in touch with the bigger picture.

“When you put it into perspective, it wasn’t a huge deal – heal so you can at least live a normal life,” said Ewen, who competes with a sit ski in the LW11 classification.

“The Paralympics are so sick, but it’s only a two week event. It could be the best two weeks of your life, but you still have all the other years to live. So my main focus was to put it off. my body at Ordinary. “

Aaron Ewen speaks to the media after being selected for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, before injury forced him to retire.

Dianne Manson / Getty Images

Aaron Ewen speaks to the media after being selected for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, before injury forced him to retire.

His optimistic approach in the face of such a big setback is just one example of Ewen’s incredible mind.

Born in France before moving to the town of Waikato in Tuakau as a child, Ewen vaguely remembers her travels in the snow as a youngster. But it was another downhill discipline – mountain biking – that was his first love.

However, in February 2013, shortly after his 16th birthday, Ewen suffered a major accident during a competition, sustaining a spinal cord injury that left him motionless in his legs.

Despite the life-changing injury, he refused to let it hold him back.

Just six months after the accident, Ewen tried sitting skiing for the first time when his friends took him to Mount Ruapehu for a lesson and a new passion was born.

“I definitely wasn’t too good at the start,” Ewen recalls. “I wouldn’t say I picked it up quickly. I’ve seen other people pick it up faster, but I guess it was just the number of hours I put into it.”

After a few years, Ewen began to take the racing side more seriously after relay training in Winter Park, Colorado for the 2017 season. In February of that year, he won his first international podiums with a third place finish in the race. giant slalom and slalom at world para-alpine ski races in the United States.

But he always loved freeskiing, relishing the independence he found on the snow after the accident.

Aaron Ewen with other Kiwi para-alpine skiers Corey Peters (left) and Adam Hall (center), who will also compete in Beijing.

Provided / Content

Aaron Ewen with other Kiwi para-alpine skiers Corey Peters (left) and Adam Hall (center), who will also compete in Beijing.

“It’s probably the only wheelchair sport that you can do independently and be at the same level as the average able-bodied person,” Ewen said.

“For all other sports, you need help somehow, or you can’t do everything your friends can do. But skiing, you can climb the mountain on your own. , go skiing on your own, go home on your own, which is pretty unreal. “

After recovering from his hip injury in 2018, Ewen returned to racing during the New Zealand winter of 2019, achieving several podium finishes in the Southern Hemisphere Cups. He capped his successful comeback with a selection to the Paralympic Winter Team last November.

Since leaving the country two months ago with teammates Adam Hall and Corey Peters, the trio have trained and competed in North America and Europe.

It’s a bit of a step into the unknown for Ewen after the Covid-19 pandemic kept him from competing abroad for two years, while the intensity intensifies over the next fortnight with the World Paraneige Championships in Lillehammer, Norway.

Not that he is confused by the level of the competition.

“Which is good,” Ewen added. “Better than being scared or overwhelmed. I just see them as the same, not different from me.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the Olympics, that’s the main event we are aiming for. But it will be a good benchmark race to see where I am because I have never competed in a Cup. of the world before, so I don’t know where I’m sitting against everyone. “

Ewen is not yet a full-time athlete and shares his year of competition in the winter with a job as a bike mechanic in the summer.

He credits the act of juggling with making him “warmer”, but is looking to take his career to the next level with a solid performance in Beijing.

“It would be the dream, not having to work anymore,” said Ewen. “I hope to be in the top six, that’s the goal.”

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

Par-snow sports world championships

January 8-23, Lillehammer

Paralympic Winter Games 2022

March 4-13, Beijing

About George Dailey

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