“Four years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt that I would be representing my country, not in a million years.”
That statement sums up how Tuakau’s Aaron Ewen feels about being recently named in New Zealand’s national skiing team.
“You don’t think about that sort of thing, but the longer you participate in a sport, the more competitive you get,” he said.
The 20 year old alpine skier will be making his Paralympian debut at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in March 2018.
Aaron’s introduction to alpine skiing began nearly five years ago, after an accident at a National Mountain Biking competition saw him sustain a spinal cord injury, which left him without movement in his legs.
Shortly after his accident, family friends took Aaron to Mt Ruapehu where he was able to give skiing ago.
“It was just for fun, you know? To go out, and have a good time.”
Aaron became hooked on the sport, and spent as much time as he could on the slopes.
With encouragement from Snow Sports NZ’s Adaptive Manager, Jane Stevens, and the instructors at Mt Ruapehu, Aaron moved to Wanaka for the 2015 season. He also spent several months at Cardrona Alpine Resort mastering the sit ski. A trip to America for the northern hemisphere season followed, enabling Aaron to experience racing for the first time.
Returning to the USA for the 2017 season, Aaron trained at the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) at the Winter Park resort in Colorado, coming away with several podium finishes.
Aaron doesn’t believe he had the best season, but says it has all been a big learning curve, and the experience has been worth it.
He will be joining Paralympians Adam Hall, who will be attending his fourth Paralympic Games, Sochi 2014 silver medallist Corey Peters, and Para snowboarder Carl Murphy, who will be competing in his second Paralympic Winter Games.
While some may feel intimidated by the wealth of experience that their fellow team mates hold, Aaron is jumping at the opportunity to learn as much as possible from them.
“I can’t thank Adam and Corey enough. They have been helping me out so much and Corey has given me heaps of his old gear. They don’t have to help me. While we are a team, we are also competing against each other for individual results. It’s a Kiwi thing, and I am just so appreciative of their support.”
Tuakau College Principal, Chris Betty, said he wasn’t surprised that their former student is ‘developing into a great sportsman.’
“Aaron had the drive and determination throughout school, and his accident hasn’t stopped him from achieving his goals. We have been following his successes, and for Aaron to be named on the team is absolutely fantastic. We are thrilled for him,” said Mr Betty.
Aaron will be making his way back to Winter Park in Colorado early December, and said he is unsure of what to expect for Pyeongchang.
“A top ten finish would be sweet, but we will see what happens. I can’t expect too much, but I will go out and give it a good go.”
Aaron is not a carded athlete yet, meaning that he has supported his own campaign, a feat he says would be impossible without the help from family and friends.
“There are so many people I would like to thank. I can’t name them all, but they all know who they are, and I just want to acknowledge their support.”
Photo: Getty Images