Ksenia Bezuglova, a public figure, winner of the “Vertical” beauty pageant among girls in wheelchairs, tells what made her overcome the fear and start skiing again.
I was riding the chair lift, looked down, having thoughts like, “What was I thinking of? Get me down. I want to live. I know neither how to sit in this thing nor how to ride it.”
For the first time, I started skiing in Sorochany, Moscow Oblast. I really enjoyed it, but I skied only for two seasons, then I had the car accident.
After the injury, I thought all skiers are insane. I tried to persuade my friends and family to give up extreme sports, explaining how fragile and open to injury we are; that we can be badly hit by usual fall. My husband hasn’t skied for six years. Last year he began thinking about it. Then he went skiing to Sakhalin. He loved it a lot. When he came back I thought, “Why did I limit myself? Why can’t I do extreme sports? What else can happen to me that I wouldn’t know?” My husband always flies alone, and our family is separated in winter, although we are used to doing everything together. I told him that if there were special equipment for skiing, I would use it. He replied, “Are you crazy? I will never let you do it! That is horrible! Don’t even think about it!”
In winter, my husband told me that the whole family was going to the mountains. Of course, he meant that I would just sit in some mountain café, watching, supporting everyone and looking after the child. I said that we would take a babysitter and then I would see what to do. After that, I contacted with the Paralympic National Team.
They got me the Ottobock Monoski, reserve one, left after the Olympic Games in Sochi. That is a seat mounted on a single ski through a spring suspension system. In the evening before the departure, I took it away. In the morning, Alex found this thing in the trunk. He was shocked and couldn’t believe that I was going to use it. He overwhelmed me with questions about what it is, how it works, and if it is safe. I said, “Let’s work this out later.” Later, it turned out that my husband had to drag this 17-kilogram thing from the hotel to the chair lift. On the slope, we had a lot of trouble with it.
When the guards saw us with the monoski, they closed the gates, as it was forbidden to bring sleighs to the chair lift. They said, “We have directions. We can’t violate them.” It took us about 40 minutes to solve this problem with heads.
And here I was moving to the top, looking down, only thinking, “Get me down! I want to live.” My curiosity overcame the fear, though. But yeah, the fear was great.
It’s extremely hard to ride one ski when you don’t control your body completely. First, you have to spend some time, learning to stand in it. We didn’t have this time, so we decided to learn how to stand and ride it at once. I was got to the top and pushed. The monoski picks up high speed in seconds. I fell, lost control, rolled down. After several very unsuccessful and lame landings, I climbed to the start again and realized that I couldn’t go down anymore. I was standing on the slope for about 40 minutes. As soon as I made myself go down, the fear disappeared.
When at the end of the first day I came to the café opposite the mountain, all the people there stood up and started clapping.
Other skiers there supported me greatly, took photos, asked for autographs, clapped on the back, saying, “Well done”.
Probably, I was the first wheelchair tourist with the monoski there. After I had posted photos, I got a lot of emails. People with disabilities miss extreme sports, as many of them used to be snowboarders and skiers. When they saw me, it revived their hope of feeling this adrenaline. Unfortunately, it is impossible to rent a monoski. You can only buy it. The monoski costs about $6,500.
Sochi has huge potential. A skiing lodge for disabled peopled could be built there. Meanwhile, there are no special coaches, no assistants. If you decided to ski, you would have to deal with it by yourself. Perhaps, it is fair, because in mountains everyone is on his/her own. My husband and my wonderful friends took care of me. They carried me, lifted me up when I fell.
Some coaches and sportsmen came up to me on ski slopes, said I had a talent, and advised me to take up sports. And I started pondering over it. I know people with spinal cord injuries seldom manage to do Paralympic sports. We cause a lot of trouble: somebody has to seat us or lift us up if we fall. It is much easier to train an amputee. I want to show once more, to prove to myself that everything is possible. I became a mother in a wheelchair twice, I learnt to ski. If at the age of 33 I decide to do big-time sports, I’ll do it.
The main thing is that once I overcame the fear, I experienced a forgotten feeling when you can do something along with others. We went in a group of 17 people. We skied together, laughed, screamed, and cheered each other up. My friends left behind competitive spirit. They stopped skiing and snowboarding to help me. They dragged me out of snowdrifts, shook the snow off me, and put me on the top like a tilting doll. Once, when the chair lift was already shut down, my friends carried me to the top to take the last run down the clean route. It was hard, but they did it!
How happy I was, when my husband, daughter, and I ran down the mountain. I would crawl up to the top of any mountain for this.
Photo: Alena Polosuhina