World championship preparations

February 12, 2015

It has been nearly a year since our last update. A lot has happened. (a massive understatement). We’ve loved sharing all the news through our Facebook page and Twitter accounts (here and here) and speaking to anyone and everyone who wants to hear about our amazing sport and progress. Here is one example.

This update feels like it requires a more detailed post.

Last time we were on snow together was on 13th January. Charlotte and I were working on gliding, which every ski racer works on for Downhill and Super G training. As a pair, we also work on our spacing over the flats and transition from steep to flat terrain. Spacing of athlete and guide is a characteristic unique to visually impaired ski racing since this category of the sport involves two people on the same course trying to be as close to one another as possible, rather than one racer. If Charlotte becomes too far ahead, from steep to flat or by accelerating across the flats, she has to slow down because I have to communicate with her via my headset to let her know that I cannot see, by which time we’ve lost speed and usually don’t have an opportunity to regain that on the flats. I am heavier than Charlotte, too, so when we are on the flats and tight together, I can end up drafting in her slipstream. This is a situation that we practise and explore often. It is a delicate skill and involves a great deal of communication and time on snow together.

Charlotte and I have been skiing together for over five years, during which time we’ve had lots of bumps, crashes and falls. Most of those have been me. This time, however, I injured Charlotte. I clipped the back of her skis, while moving from right to left as I was drafting in her slipstream. Both of us fell, but Charlotte fell very hard. At first instance I thought she had reinjured her ACL, as knees are every skier’s worst fear when injured! Initially Charlotte couldn’t communicate anything about her own fall because – ever the professional guide – she was asking me how I was! (I was totally fine!). At the scene it appeared that Charlotte had hurt her left shoulder, maybe a subluxation or dislocation.

I know Charlotte very well. She doesn’t complain, ever, so if she ever does, it’s serious. She also hates fuss, so persuading her to go to the doctor or hospital straight away was difficult. She knows her own mind too, so it’s extra hard to boss her about and tell her she’s going to hospital. In hindsight, I should’ve bossed her about more and been more stern about calling a day to the training session, but it is very hard to do so when you’re focused athletes training together for world champs. As a result, I didn’t notice the gravity of the accident.

Only after spending the rest of the day skiing together, followed by a night’s sleep and finally a trip to the doctor in Austria, did we learn that Charlotte may have suffered a concussion. Sure enough, when we returned to London and sought medical help from the EIS doctor, we found out that Charlotte had suffered a serious concussion and is now, a month on, still recovering and unfit to return to activity or snow.

Concussion is horrible! I’ve had at least three.

We have experienced and overcome many physical injuries together. From strained ligaments to hip surgery to bone bruises to surgical dentistry to loss of hearing, the list is extensive. Some of the crashes and falls were dramatic; some were trivial. Some lingered on and became chronic injuries, and some recovered so well that we forgot about the whole incident. Concussion is different, in that it’s unique to each person and, the first time, it is terribly scary. People’s reaction to hearing you have a concussion is totally different in comparison to their reaction if they see you on crutches in an air boot. I think that’s because they can relate to injury of a bone break or a strained ligament or bruised muscle, but with concussion, they can’t understand the nausea, confusion, inability to concentrate, frustration, the ebb and flow of energy, sensitivity to light, noise and smells and the lack of confidence in when you’re going to feel better. It is really misunderstood.

Since last year’s Games, all we’ve been asked is about our next event. “When will you compete next?”; “World champs – when are they, where are they?” and the inevitable…”Do you think you’ll win?”

We are as focused as ever on competing to the best of our abilities, and we know that our best is really great. However since 13th January our main focus and that of our families and medical team (physiotherapists, psychologist and doctor) is more focused on Charlotte’s long term well being than what we can achieve in March in Canada at World Championships.

In the hope that Charlotte will be fit to return to snow soon and that we pull off the most miraculous end to a ski season ever, I am getting ready to “compete” next week in at least one of the EC finals. Ross, our coach, is stepping into the role of guide! I’m delighted that he has kept our dream of competing at World Champs alive, and the purpose of the upcoming race is to enable me to fulfil the eligibility criteria from the IPC which states that I have to have achieve race points in the 2014/15 season. Mine and Charlotte’s form is fine, so the race points don’t matter for qualification, it’s just a funny little hurdle we need to overcome. And in the meantime, Charlotte can remain in England as she continues to recover.

Of course, this could all be in vain. Next week the advice from EIS could be that Charlotte is still not able to take on guiding or racing at World Champs.

Once again we aren’t ashamed to throw everything we’ve got at our performance plan and just see how it goes.

Leaving Sochi, knowing that we had put in 100% effort meant that, whatever the results, we were happy. That’s how we approach our sport.

When Charlotte is allowed to use a computer again, or her telephone, she can tell this in her own words and write a blog post from her perspective.

Oh, and….as a funny little aside….feel free to send us all your inspirational memes and quotes! Our friends have been sending us some really cheesy ones of late – you know the ones like, “fall 7 times, get back up 8”, etc. But this one has been my favourite so far……..#Glee #notrelated

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5 Responses to “World championship preparations”

  1. […] on Charlotte’s long-term well being than what we can achieve at the Worlds,” said Gallagher. [2] […]

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