Soldiers and international-level athletes have much in common – focus and dedication are watchwords while attention to detail and a never-say-die attitude goes with the territory! Civvy Street spoke with former RAF PT Instructor – and now Team GB Sit-skier – Sean Rose in the run up to the Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
WORDS: TOM JAMISON
“Preparation couldn’t be going better really – apart from the most recent thing, which was the crash after my win,” Sean Rose told us. You’ve got to hand it to him; that’s confidence and optimism for you. To a recreational skier, a ‘crash’ is usually about tipping over and staggering back up with nothing more hurt than your pride. For a top level sit skier, a crash can be a death defying crunch at up to 80mph!
Sean Rose is one of Britain’s top-rated disabled skiers, and he started 2010 on a high – winning the UK’s first ever World Cup gold medal in Sestriere, Italy, the day before he was selected for the British team competing at the Paralympic Winter Games in
“The whole season has been fantastic,” he said. “I did well last season; I was the first Brit to win World Cup medals but I still felt that I had a lot more to give. I looked at every aspect of the sport, really just ripped everything apart and took it back down to the bare bones: new equipment, new skis, new everything! I really took quite a big decision to change the main equipment. I really just wanted to take the plunge and go for it. I think it’s paid off loads. I turned up in December to some Europa cup races and took four medals and two fourths.”
Sean has an ‘all in’ attitude to his skiing, “Sestriere is a place I love. It’s a pretty scary, fast course that you really just have to commit to 100% or you’re in trouble. I went into the race knowing that I could do it and absolutely nailed it. Suddenly, I had people taking pictures of my sit ski, checking out my compression settings and suspension. It was great because I realised that we were getting up there with the big boys and we were getting them worried.”
There have been set backs, of course – perhaps inevitably, given the way that Sean puts his body on the line. “I went out the next day wanting to do exactly the same thing in the Downhill,” he added. “Came on the final ride, 80 mph, put the ski sideways and high sided – smacked myself into the floor, a few flips and through the crash net. I severely traumatised my lower back and all of my abs and the muscles around my core. A right good kicking! I’ve had lot of intense physio since then and a lot of discomfort and quite a lot of pain.”
On the plus side it’s this kind of hard lesson that Sean can draw on in Vancouver. “I’m not bomb proof,” he admitted. “We all know that at those sorts of speeds we’re living on a knife edge. It can get quite nasty. Luckily it wasn’t anything that’ll keep me out of the Paralympics.”
Having met the whole Sit Ski team Civvy Street realises that they’re as tight as any platoon patrol. Sean agreed: “I get goose bumps when you say that. I’ve played a lot of sports and been in teams all my life but never a team quite like this. There’s a lot of banter; I think that helps and a couple of us are ex-military so we make the banter even worse!”