Resilience and Teamwork at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup

Re·sil·ience

Webster definition:  the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Richard’s definition:   The synergy of human confidence, passion, courage and intrepid determination needed to survive and to conquer adversity

IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup

In my roll as the Patron of Disabled Wintersport Australia,  it was my (and Coral’s) pleasure on Thursday (4 Sept 2013)  to attend the slalom racing at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Cup on Thredbo’s “World Cup” course.

This was the first time that Australia has hosted a Paralympic Alpine Skiing event.   So the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC), in conjunction with the IPC and Kosciuszko Thredbo ski resort offered their best efforts to the competitors and guests to guarantee a great series of races.

This World Cup provided an opportunity for all athletes to gain points towards qualification for the Sochi  Winter Paralympic Games in March 2014.

I was thrilled and excited to see the world’s best Paralympic Alpine skiers negotiate the steep and icy course.

Vision Impaired Skiers

Jess Gallagher (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Jess Gallagher’s left boot starts to flatten the racing pole. (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

The Vision Impaired skiers led the charge, with Australia’s Jess Gallagher gaining the Silver Medal for the day.    Jess has only 10% vision yet this intrepid skier flattened every pole on her shortest way through the slalom course.

100% blind athlete Lindsay Ball being guided through the icy slalom course by Dianne Barris

100% blind athlete Lindsay Ball being guided through the icy slalom course by Dianne Barris (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

Jess Gallagher

Jess Gallagher following her guide Christian (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

I was emotionally affected to watch Lindsay Ball race down the course.

In a display of the most remarkable teamwork and mutual trust, Lindsay, a 100%  blind skier, successfully negotiated the treacherous ice slalom track at high speed.

Lindsay followed and was guided by  Dianne Barris, who radioed commands through an intercom, and blasted the same out through a backpack mounted speaker.

On reaching the bottom of the course, she had to place her hand upon Dianne’s shoulder to walk off the course!

Stand Up Skiers

(Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

Stephanie Gallen (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

2013 09 Sep IPC World Cup Thredbo Races 138 (560x480)

Martin France   (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

The stand up skiers showed the spectators what can be achieved when we consider our capabilities from a GLASS HALF FULL attitude (of ability), rather than the traditional GLASS HALF EMPTY approach of disability.

2013 09 Sep IPC World Cup Thredbo Races 108 (315x315)

Stephanie Gallen   (Photo:  Richard de Crespigny)

The famous Heather Mills skied brilliantly as did others who showed that the loss of a limb did not slow racing times!

Sit Skiers

2013 09 Sep IPC World Cup Thredbo Races 116 (393x270)

Tori Pendergast   (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

Finally the sit skiers torqued their mono skis round the course at a speed faster than 99% of the normal population could muster.

Heath Calhoun (Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

Heath Calhoun (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

Just as I have been touched by my new associations with members of Disabled WinterSport Australia, I have been humbled to meet the members of the Australian and International Paralympic Committees.

There is so much more pleasure in giving than receiving.  Although the proud Paralympians declined almost every offer I gave to assist them during the races, I still felt privileged to observe, cheer and promote the event.

Amanda Gannon

My views were echoed by Qantas Flight Attendant Amanda Gannon.

Amanda Gannon  (DWA Guide and Qantas Flight Attendant), Walter Cole with Declan  (They skied for four days.  Perhaps Declan will aspire to train for the APC!

Amanda Gannon (DWA Guide and Qantas Flight Attendant), Walter Cole with Declan (They skied for four days. Perhaps Declan will aspire to train for the APC!   (Photo: Amanda Gannon)

Amanda Gannon

Amanda has been a  Disabled WinterSport Australia  volunteer guide for four years.  She is passionate about helping people with disabilities adapt to the snow.

Amanda joined us at the World Cup to cheer and support vision impaired Jess Gallagher, a DWA graduate who hopes to qualify for the Sochi  Winter Paralympic Games in 2014.

“I’ve had many amazing times at DWA” Amanda added, “It’s so rewarding to ski with people who want to experience the sport that I love, and inspiring to help them adapt to the challenges on the snow.  Their  contagious beaming smiles confirm every feeling we are trying to share.”

“I’m so committed to DWA that I have just taken the next step and qualified as an adaptive instructor (at the Perisher ski resort).

Lessons from the IPC World Cup

Jess Gallagher (Silver Medalist), Jess Gallagher (DWA Volunteer and Qantas Flight Attendant), Me

Jess Gallagher (Silver Medalist) Amanda Gannon (DWA Guide and Qantas Flight Attendant), Me (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

I have been on a continuous learning experience since July 2013 when the Governor General announced my position as Patron of Disabled WinterSport Australia.

I have discovered that the lessons of inverting the logic during my QF32 experience, that enabled  me to understand the damaged A380, can be applied to resilience for the human condition as well.

The fastest Australian skier and the world’s fastest runner are both amputees!

From a business perspective,  the the 100% blind Lindsay Ball and her racing guide Dianne Barrise exhibit a case study for TEAMWORK.    For it is not easy to build effective teams.   We need commitment and effort to build effective teams regardless of whether we work in a large multinational company or a small business.

During Lindsay and Dianne’s races, we saw and heard the girls constantly challenge-respond to each other.   We realised that a sphere of absolute TRUST enshrouded both girls as they skidded down over the steep ice for what I envisage must have been a terrifying experience .

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100% blind athlete Lindsay Ball being guided through the icy slalom course by Dianne Barris   (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

During their race I observed all the fundamental essence and ingredients of teamwork at their best!  Lindsay and Dianne’s constant COMMUNCIATIONS  engendered TRUST, that REMOVED CONFLICT, that in turn nurtured CONFIDENCE and COMMITMENT.   Every time Dianne looked backwards, up the slope towards  Lindsay, I saw a great leader who felt ACCOUNTABLE and RESPONSIBLE TO MONITOR THE RESULTS.

Looking back over my 45 years on snow, I have never seen a more focused, happy, friendly and inspired group as the World Cup teams.

There was no complacency, complaining or winging by any person at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup, only unbridled energy, passion and love of the sport and companions.

Resilience and teamwork – humanity at its best.

Congratulations to all the skiers who raced in the IPC World Cup.

Thank you to the International and Australian Paralympic Committees, Disabled WinterSport Australia and to the Kosciuszko Thredbo ski resort for contributing to a spectacular world event!

Click here if you are interested to become a volunteer guide for Disabled WinterSport Australia.   It is a most worthy cause.

Jess Gallagher (Silver Medalist), Eric Bickerton (CEO, Disabled WinterSport Australia)

Jess Gallagher (Silver Medalist), Eric Bickerton (CEO, Disabled WinterSport Australia) (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

4 comments

  1. Mandy Squair · · Reply

    Hi Richard,

    I was very impressed by what you have written above about the paralympic skiers and their teams, and their courage and teamwork. How fantastic. All the best to all of them.

    I also wanted to tell you that the night with Dick Smith at the Powerhouse Museum on 22 July was wonderful. Dick, his family and people associated with his world helicopter flight were all there and it was fantastic to meet them at the drinks beforehand, and then hear their stories during Dick’s speech and telling of his world trip.

    He still got emotional during the telling of the more terrifying moments of that trip. It was great to meet him. Thank you for letting us know about that event.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Mandy.

      I missed attending Dick Smith‘s event at the Power House Museum because I had to position to Canberra for the Governor General’s Morning Tea at which she announced my Patronage to DWA. I am glad that you attended the event and pleased that you enjoyed his remarkable stories. Best Regards Rich

  2. Thanks for a great story and photos.

    I have skied with a blind skier and their guide at Guthega. Turn, turn, turn and such trust. We were all skiing blue runs.

    Some years before I was skiing Thredbo with sit skiers joining the Defence Ski Championships. Such courage.

    It’s honour for those of us who observe. I don’t ski well enough to be a guide. Go you good things, as my husband would say. I talk a lot about resilience at various conferences and in my business. It is wonderful to see resilience come to life. Cheers, Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      Fascinating to hear of your experiences with the Defence Force Ski Team. I represented the RAAF in 19982 when competing in the Defence Force Ski Team.

      You would be pleased to know that Eric Bickerton, the CEO of Disabled WinterSport Australia, has been managing the Defence Force Ski teams in Australia for many years. This year he merged the Defence Force teams with the Disabled WinterSport Ski Teams for the annual race week. Everyone had a fabulous time!

      Everybody can help. Referrals are important to help promote the opportunity for people with a disability to participate in winter sports.

      Please contact Eric Bickerton (CEO) (eric@disabledwintersport.com.au) if you know of any friends, work colleagues or family members who may wish to volunteer with Disabled WinterSport Australia. All enquiries are welcome!

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