In September 2011, father of two Chris Lloyd, was involved in a car accident, breaking his back, crushing his spinal cord and leaving him paralysed from the neck down. Having been told by doctors he would never ski again, Chris was determined to get back on his feet and set himself a goal of one day competing at the Paralympic Games. Three months after the accident Chris began to walk as part of an intensive rehabilitation programme. Today, age 43, Chris is a British Parasnowsport Athlete, aiming to compete in the Giant Slalom, Super Combined, Super-G and Downhill events at the Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in March 2018. Chris speaks exclusively with In The Snow about his miraculous recovery and inspirational journey …
ITS> Can you please explain a little more about the rehabilitation process following your accident and how you managed to transition from the hospital bed to the slopes?
CL> Following my accident, I couldn’t do anything for myself and had to rely on the hospital staff and my family for the simple things, like being fed and washed. The recovery process was difficult, and I was told I would never ski again by my medical consultant, but I was determined to prove them wrong. I reinvented myself, taught myself meditation, self-hypnosis and positive visualisation – reforming pathways. As I slowly began to regain mobility, I first clipped back into a pair of skis 12 months after the crash at Tamworth Snowdome.
ITS> What was your level of skiing experience before the accident and can you describe the sensation of skiing again for the first time after the crash?
CL> I’ve been skiing ever since I was at secondary school. My first trip was age 14 and I continued to ski for fun with my friends and family all the way up until the crash. I would say I was a competent skier but certainly wasn’t a ski racer. When I put skis on again for the first time in Tamworth, it was a shaky run but I skied from top to bottom, and the feeling I got from that was just incredible. It was a memorable moment and a significant step in my road to recovery.
ITS> What did your family say when you first told them you wanted to become a ski racer?
My family are my rock and have been brilliant with me. My partner Jessica and I regularly went on ski holidays together with our two kids, it’s a sport we all enjoy as a family. They’ve been nothing but supportive in all I do, and I can’t thank them enough for helping me in my journey to compete for my country in the sport I love.
ITS> You’re a LW9-1 Standing classified skier, for our readers who don’t know, can you explain what this category means?
CL> LW9 is essentially a classification of skiing for people with upper and lower limb function problems. I only have 40% power in my right leg and 50 % power in my left, so it takes 3 or 4 times more energy and concentration to be able to ski a course. Once fatigue sets in, I become tired and my legs give up and I struggle to stand up. Recovery may take 2-3 days depending on conditions. This has made training and racing harder, but it’s something I’ve learned to live with and doesn’t stop me from pushing myself to ski the best I possibly can.
ITS> What does your training routine consist of and how do you prepare mentally for a race?
CL> I work out in the gym; try to eat healthy; meditate and train hard on my ski technique with my coaches on the slopes. The mental preparation is key, and through the experience of my accident, the power of positive thought is something I firmly believe in. No matter how tough life gets, if you maintain a positive outlook, you can achieve great things.
ITS> What are your biggest daily challenges and how do you keep motivated?
CL> I fatigue quite easily, and when I get tired my cognitive starts to fade. My pain and temperature receptors don’t function from my neck down, so I struggle to know when it’s hot or cold. These are things I’ve learned to live with and these things don’t stop me from moving forward. My motivation is to ski the best I can and hope I get selected for the squad to attend Pyeongchang next year. There’s no doubt the words of my consultant telling me I’d never ski again has been a huge motivator too.
ITS> You were invited to join Paralympics GB at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi 2014, but didn’t compete. How do you feel that experience has prepared you for Pyeongchang next year?
CL> It was a huge honour to fly out to Sochi and it was a wonderful experience. The trip gave me an insight into the scale of the Paralympics in comparison to normal World Cup competition. Ultimately though I want to be competing, so the experience of being in Russia has given me even more drive to compete in South Korea.
ITS> What are your aims for this season and hopes for the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang?
CL> Firstly, I want to ski well and improve on my race times. If I do that I will put myself in a good position to get selected for the games. The opportunity to represent my country at the Paralympics really would be a dream come true.