APC CP day Article
My Name is Jonty O’Callaghan and I’m a standing skier in the Australian Men’s Para-alpine Ski Team. I hope to be in a position to contend for a medal in the Winter Paralympics in six months time in PyeongChang in South Korea. Towards the end of my mother’s pregnancy, I suffered a congenital stroke due to a middle cerebral artery bleed in the left hemisphere of my brain, resulting a mild paralysis in the right side of my body. This means that I ski with only one pole, and tend to favour my left limbs.
Along with motorsports and horse racing, skiing is one of the most expensive sports to actively pursue, especially coming from a non-traditional winter sports nation. Along with obvious costs such as airfares, accomodation and food, there's also various costs that those unfamiliar with winter sports may not know. These include lift tickets, race entry, equipment (a pair of race skis cost around 2K and I need to travel with 5 pairs and the associated freighting costs twice per year, coaching fee and vehicle hire contributions.
I compete in the male standing class, which consists of classification classes LW1 to LW9. These classes encompass all para athletes who can still ski standing up, without a guide. Therefore, I compete against athletes with a vast variety of disabilities, from missing fingers to Spina Bifida. Each athlete’s time is factored accordingly to level the playing field.
In my early years, this impairment wasn’t particularly noticeable in comparison to my peers, and hence I thoroughly enjoyed participating and succeeding in mainstream sports such as footy, Cricket and tennis. But as we entered our teenage years, my friends and peers grew stronger and fitter at a substantially greater rate than me, leaving me forced to seek alternative pathways in order to satisfy my immensely competitive nature.
It was around this time that my family temporary relocated to Switzerland. Prior to this move my family had never participated in snow sports. But given we resided in the mountains, catching the bug was always inevitable. My three siblings and I have all competed for our schools and mountain since,. Unlike many para-athletes, I actually came through the able-bodied talent pathway. I spent 6 years as a member of the Mount Buller Race Club, competing on the Australian Children’s Championship Circuit. However, despite my endeavour, I was unable to improve at the same rate as my peers, which at the time was very demoralising and hard to accept. But once I started racing Para in 2012, my career pathway seemed much clearer.
My last competitive season (2016/17 North Hemisphere Winter) was my most successful yet, coming 7th overall on the Europa Cup Circuit, and making the top 20 at the biannual World Championships held in Tarvisio in February 2017
The past few years have certainly been challenging in terms of juggling my family obligations, my sporting ambitions and academic goals at school and now university, it has continually tested my resolve and my persistence, thus allowing me to get the best out of myself. As such, going to the games would hopefully give me both the satisfaction of achievement
I would be immensely grateful for any contribution you may wish to make to my journey, and will find a way to express this gratitude to every single one of you.
- Rose Carroll
- Jackie Donohue
- Carolyn and Roman Glembin
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