Paralympian Aaron Ewen: ‘I just want to enjoy the world, and enjoy life’

New Zealand’s Aaron Ewen, pictured training at the National Alpine Ski Centre in Yanqing, will compete in the Beijing Winter Paralympics this weekend.

Yifan Ding/Getty Images

New Zealand’s Aaron Ewen, pictured training at the National Alpine Ski Centre in Yanqing, will compete in the Beijing Winter Paralympics this weekend.

Paralympian Aaron Ewen didn’t whinge when a serious leg injury, a consequence of jumping off a bridge, ruled him out of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

He had bigger things to worry about.

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Complications following surgery on a broken femur were his biggest concern, so he couldn’t see the point of blowing-up about missing the trip to South Korea.

“Bone infections are pretty gnarly,” Ewen, who will participate in his first Games when he competes in the men’s alpine skiing downhill and Super-G races (both sitting) in Beijing this weekend, said.

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“You need a lot of antibiotics, and it is a kind of a long process. It still causes me problems today. Because of the surgery I am missing part of my femur, and it is like twisting my body.

“It was not ideal, and it probably took six or seven months to recover.”

Ewen, who was left without movement in his legs following a crash while competing in a downhill mountain biking at age 16 in 2013, accepts his body will continue paying the price for the decision to leap off the bridge at Albert Town near Wanaka.

His body, he says, isn’t symmetrical any more so he will eventually need to get a hip replacement.

This discussion leads to the obvious question: Why motivated him to leap off the bridge in the first instance?

“I had done it previously in a wheelchair, so I thought nothing of it,” he explained. “You can’t tell me you haven’t jumped off a bridge, and enjoyed it before?”

“I just landed a bit weird. And that was the end of that. I won’t be doing that again. It’s quite a nice spot to jump off, if you are not in a wheelchair.”

Paralympian Aaron Ewen will compete at the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing this weekend.

Getty/Paralympics NZ/Supplied

Paralympian Aaron Ewen will compete at the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing this weekend.

Six months after sustaining the spinal cord injury that was to alter his life forever, Ewen was introduced to sit-skiing at Mt Ruapehu. Things progressed quickly after that.

Paralympic alpine skiers can reach speeds in excess of 100kph, so the competitive side of the sport isn’t for everyone. Yet it holds great appeal for Ewen.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of gravity knows that the faster a skier goes, the higher the risk. Still, he doesn’t consider himself a daredevil.

“I wouldn’t say I am more of a (speed) junkie than you, I would just say my tolerance is a lot higher probably because you always look for your next rush.

“Some people might get it from going faster in their car. We all have it in us.”

In February 2017 Ewen achieved his first international podium finishes, with third placings in the giant slalom at the World Para Alpine Skiing races in the United States, proof he was good enough to compete at this level.

He’s happy taking life as it comes, rather than taking a more conventional path. This, he says, can be traced back to the day when he had the bike crash.

“Buying a house, having a family and settling down – that sort of tradition doesn’t really appeal to me, at the moment.

New Zealand's Winter Paralympic Games alpine skiers Corey Peters, Adam Hall and Aaron Ewen are in Beijing for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

Paralympics NZ

New Zealand’s Winter Paralympic Games alpine skiers Corey Peters, Adam Hall and Aaron Ewen are in Beijing for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

“I just want to enjoy the world and enjoy life. Especially after having an accident, you know it can be taken away from you pretty quick.

“You can build a mini-empire and then die. So what’s the point?”

Ewen doesn’t feel he has to prove anything to himself, either, after missing the 2018 Games through his mishap.

What he would like, though, is to achieve a good result as a show of thanks to everyone who has supported him since he took up the sport.

“It would also be cool to influence some young people and grow the sport in New Zealand,” he says.

“Hopefully this will help. It is quite a niche sport and requires a lot of commitment. But it is there, and can be done.”

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