EFDS - English Federation of Disability Sport

03/08/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 03/07/2018 18:22

Blog: “I’m at my happiest when on the slopes”

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year's theme is #PressForProgress, and so as EFDS celebrates inclusion in sport, we also press for progress so more disabled women can enjoy the benefits of being active. Today, we hear from Ruth, who gives us an honest account of how sport really helped to change her life.

Hi, I'm Ruth, I'm 23 years old and I'm a mono-skier. I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome alongside secondary conditions of Dysautonomia - a disorder of autonomic nervous system and a number of other long term health conditions.

I started skiing when I was 21 and experienced my first lesson on my 21st birthday. I had just come out of hospital after a seven month admission, where I was lucky to be alive after multiple stays in intensive care. So, once I was out of hospital I wanted to do something spectacular to celebrate.

I now ski at a club in Hemel Hempstead and I have been on two trips to Andorra and Austria with Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK). I also play wheelchair basketball with SportsAble Rockets, as well as doing 5K runs with friends, and completing my first 10K event at the end of last year.

I love skiing, I still remember being bucketed down the slope for the first time and I felt so free and alive. I couldn't stop smiling; the speed, adrenaline and freedom were great to feel. From that moment I couldn't wait to learn more. I'm now skiing independently in a mono-ski and completed my first ever black run down a mountain last year. I couldn't be prouder of myself.

I'm usually with friends when taking part in sports. I ski with DSUK, who help and support anyone with a disability learn to ski, whether that's stand-up skiing or using a sit-ski, a bi-ski or mono-ski. I go to a monthly club in Hemel Hampstead, where I ski with non-disabled and disabled people and I love it. Seeing everyone out skiing together makes me so happy.

What I enjoy most about being active is the freedom of being out of my chair when I'm skiing or playing basketball. Being active has been great for my overall fitness but more importantly it has been good for my mental health. People so often forget that long term health conditions and disabilities don't just affect you physically, it's hard on your mental health as well.

Coping with a life-changing and life-threatening illness is massive but when I'm active and playing sports I'm not just 'Ruth the girl who's sick' or 'Ruth the girl who's in a wheelchair'. I'm 'Ruth who's awesome at skiing and just completed her first ever black to red run down the mountain'. It's also the comradery of being in a team and always knowing someone has your back. We support each other on and off the slopes, court and track. There is no 'I' in team, especially in adaptive sports, everyone has a part to play and everyone is equal.

The support from my family and friends at training sessions and events is really important to me. My teammates are my family within sport - they just get it like no-one else would. No-one can ever fully understand what it's like to have a disability unless you have one yourself. As teammates we lift each other up when we're down, and celebrate with each other when we're feeling on top of the world. We always remind each other that we can do it.

This year, I am hopefully going to take part in a 24-hour ski-a-thon across the UK. I also want to do a half marathon by the end of the year, with support from some of my skiing teammates.

My advice to other disabled people wanting to take up a sport is - have a go because you never know how it's going to go. Even if you think you won't enjoy it, you might just surprise yourself. My philosophy is you never know until you try.

Sport can help you build a bridge to living a full life again. You are more than your disability and it does not define you. Whether you want to take up a sport and achieve Paralympic level, or just start adding some more fitness or fun into your life, there is so many options to choose from. You don't have to do it alone, there are some incredibly dedicated, hardworking and passionate people out there who can support you in these activities and help you to achieve your goals. Look at me now, I've done two trips abroad, red and black runs down a mountain, and I'm at my happiest when on the slopes. The people who have supported and coached me along the way are my friends for life and together we can do anything - so can you.

Sport has changed my life over the last four years. When I was fighting my illness I never thought skiing would be possible. To see where I am now and what I have achieved is just incredible.

I love winter sports and so of course I'm looking forward to watching the Winter Paralympic Games from PyeongChang, South Korea. I'll be cheering the ParalympicsGB team on, especially Mille Knight!

If you're interested in trying out skiing, you can find guidance and session information on the Disability Snowsport UK website.

If you want to be more active but aren't sure how to start, visit our dedicated webpages for advice.