In my latest interview, I spoke with the team from Pacenotes Rally Magazine about overcoming my crash and getting back on skis and back behind the wheel. You can read the full interview below...
Rallying Back to the Slopes
Chris Lloyd, 44 from Pontypridd in Wales, was involved in a rally car accident in September 2011; breaking his back, damaging his neck and crushing his spinal cord, leaving him paralysed from the neck down.......
Chris was competing on the Caerwent Patriot Stage Rally, a round of the MSA Asphalt Championship when the accident happened and he told Pacenotes “I knew immediately how serious it was, and instantly knew I was in trouble while lying in the car. The medics and rescue crews were on the scene so quickly and ensured my safe movement to hospital and were superb.”
After being rushed to Intensive care, he was left unable to walk and with no mobility in his hands; reliant on the hospital staff and his family to help with the most basic needs. Chris’s medical consultant told him he would never be able to rally a car again or for that matter ski. He had just lost the two biggest passions in his life. The father of two says, “The hardest part was my two children Morgan and Ella visiting me as I was helpless in bed. I couldn’t do anything for myself and thought I had let my family down.”
Looking at the MRI scans of the damage, Chris understood the challenge he faced, but was determined that his body had the capability to heal itself. It was then he saw a poster for the London 2012 Paralympics and told himself that one day he would be skiing in the Winter Paralympic Games.
After reinventing himself through adopting meditation, self-hypnosis and positive visualisation techniques, Chris was relentless in pushing his body to recover itself and gradually the feeling in his hands recovered and he began to independently walk a short distance. Even today he still cannot feel hot and cold, having limited feeling, but got his hands working to initially 40% of their original use.
Although his body has been able to recover itself, today Chris only has 40% power in his right leg and 50 % power in his left, so it takes three or four times more energy and concentration to be able to ski a course.
He entered his first international race in December 2012 and was so poor he didn’t even finish. This was a tough time and a reality check, where it seemed like an impossible dream to achieve a World Class standard. Finally, his resilience paid off and in August 2013 Chris was invited to become a member of the development squad with the British Disabled Ski Team.
He was then invited to Sochi with UK Paralympics as part of their inspiration programme for athletes on the fringes of the ParalympicsGB squad ...with goal to secure a place in the team to compete at the Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang in 2018.
Chris told Pacenotes “Skiing and Rallying are so very similar in nature. There is the same amount of adrenaline created by the speed and demands of both disciplines and in both sports, it is the ultimate test of oneself.” He went on to add “The G-forces are so similar at speed and when you master a stage or a ski run the feeling of satisfaction is immense.”
In the past Chris has rallied in Ireland and has driven cars run by Melvyn Evans too, and said of his exploits in Ireland “I love rallying there, its the atmosphere, the stages and events like Ravens Rock, the ALMC or the Cavan Stages. There is such a super welcome everywhere you go.”
Looking back on the last few years Chris said “The journey back was a hard one, and the psychological side of it all very demanding and took a lot of effort to keep battling and reaching my goal of skiing and rallying again.
With Rallying now firmly back on his agenda, Chris received the call he had been waiting seven years for – with the news he had been selected to compete in South Korea at the Winter Paralympics.
In March Chris raced on the World's biggest stage in the Men's Downhill and Super G events, finishing 20th and 25th respectively. He says, “Just being at the games was a dream come true and I hope my journey will help to inspire others to achieve their own dreams. No matter how hard things may seem, if you have a goal and work hard to achieve it - you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
With his goal achieved Chris is casting an eye on getting behind the wheel of a rally car again with a view to one day competing in one of the WRC events on snow saying, “It would be nice to mix Snow with Rallying in somewhere like Sweden.”
He says, “I have competed in rallies since the crash, but skiing has been my main focus. My son is keen to get involved in rallying too, so my immediate attention will be helping him get started in the sport. Then we’ll see what the future brings…”
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