Combined Services Disabled Ski Team trains in Austria

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Keen to build on the success of last season, which saw them win a total of 11 medals in international events, the team have been training hard…

Keen to build on the success of last season, which saw them win a total of 11 medals in international events, the team have been training hard for weeks.

This year’s gruelling season will see the team race against their able-bodied comrades in army events in January and against the best of all three services in the Inter-Services Championships in February, before competing in international events for the rest of the season.

Three CSDST members are already on the British Disabled Ski Team and, while the Winter Paralympics of 2014 are still some way off, qualification for the games represents a realistic long-term goal.

Amongst the team are 31 year-old Sergeant Mick Brennan of the Royal Signals, who lost his legs in a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED) strike in Iraq in 2005.

Having been with the CSDST since it was founded in 2008, he is familiar with the gruelling training schedule, saying:

My daily routine consists of a wake up call at 0530hrs followed by mobility exercises and self myofascial release [a form of soft tissue therapy] on a foam roller.

We head up the mountain in the dark and while the coaches are setting out the day’s training course I carry out my pre-planned warm-up routine. By 1130hrs I will have completed up to 10 training runs depending on the discipline that I am doing.

Training at 3,300 metres takes it out of your body, so the emphasis is always on quality training runs not quantity.

Although we leave the mountain at 1230, the day is far from over. I service my skis, including sharpening the edges that cut through the ice and give me control and waxing the base to give me speed.

After working on my equipment I head down to the gym. The physical exertion required to control my mono ski at high speeds down the mountain is huge so I need to stay on top form if I want to achieve a place on the paralympic team in 2014.

Pete Dunning, aged 26, joined the CSDST two years ago. A former Royal Marine, Pete lost both legs and suffered additional serious injuries in an IED strike in Afghanistan in 2008. Describing how his training is progressing he said:

To improve your times it’s training, training and more training basically. It’s good because not all of our training is in [race] gates. Sometimes we’re just doing drills and skills and some days the coaches take things back to basics, which is always refreshing as you need to master the basics before you can progress.

The coaches are really happy with how I’m skiing so far. I think the real testament will be when the races start coming round and we find out how well I’m skiing at that point.

I haven’t got a clue how long I’m going to be doing this but I hope to continue as long as possible. There was a guy at the World Championships last season who’s in a mono ski just like Mick and me, who won gold in the Super G and he’s 49. So there may be a few more seasons to come yet!

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Quaile, Deputy Chairman (Army) of the CSDST, said:

The aim for the team is to provide an opportunity for disabled Service men and women to race competitively at whatever level they are capable of. They enjoy it; they get a lot out of it and it gives them confidence to be reminded that they’re able to compete with the rest of society.

I am full of admiration for the dedication they show in training. It is a very demanding sport and they put in long days on the slopes or in the gym. They may also still be coping with the pain of their injuries so the physical effort and mental determination they show in striving to get to the top of the sport is particularly inspiring.