Wikinews interviews Australian blind Paralympic skier Melissa Perrine
Monday, December 10, 2012
((Wikinews)) This is Melissa Perrine. And are you like and just here training and not competing?
- Melissa Perrine: I'm not competing right now.
((WN)) And you competed in 2010 in Vancouver?
- MP: I did. Yeah.
((WN)) And who was your guide?
- MP: .
((WN)) Why a male guide? He's got to have different skis, and he can't turn exactly the same way.
- MP: I think that with me it was just that Andy was the fittest person that was with the team when I came along. He used to be an assistant coach with the team before I started with him.
((WN)) And you guys have a good relationship?
- MP: Yeah!
((WN)) Like a husband and wife relationship without the sex?
- MP: No, not at all. (laughs) Older brother maybe. Good relationship though. We get along really well.
((WN)) So have you ever lost communications on the course in an embarrassing moment?
- MP: We ski courses without communications. (unintelligible)
((WN)) You're a then?
- MP: I'm a .
((WN)) So you can see even less than Jessica Gallagher.
- MP: Yes.
((WN)) How do you ski down a course when you can't even see it?
- MP: Andy!
((WN)) You just said you had no communications!
- MP: Oh, I just have to be a lot closer to him.
((WN)) So if he's close enough you can overcome that issue?
- MP: Yeah.
((WN)) Why are you doing skiing?
- MP: Why? I enjoy it.
((WN)) You enjoy going fast?
- MP: I love going fast. I like the challenge of it.
((WN)) Even though you can't see how fast you're going.
- MP: Oh yes. It's really good. It's enjoyable. It's a challenge. I love the sport, I love the atmosphere.
((WN)) I've asked the standing skiers, who's the craziest Paralympic skiers? Is it the ones who are on the sit skis, the blind ones or the ones missing limbs?
- MP: I probably think it's the sit skiers who are a bit nuts. I think we all think the other categories are a bit mental. I wouldn't jump on a sit ski and go down the course. Or put the blindfold on and do the same thing.
((WN)) B1 with the black goggles. Is your eye sight degenerative?
- MP: No, I'm pretty stable.
((WN)) Not going to become a B1 any time soon?
- MP: Oh God, I hope not. No, I'm pretty stable so I don't envision getting much blinder than I am now unless something goes wrong.
((WN)) And you're trying for ?
- MP: Definitely.
((WN)) And you think your chances are really good?
- MP: I think I've got a decent chance. I just have to keep training like I have been.
((WN)) Win a medal this time?
- MP: I'd like to. That's the intention. (laughs)
((WN)) Do you like the media attention you've gotten? Do you wish there was more for yourself and winter sports, or of women athletes in general?
- MP: I think that promoting and the winter games is more important than promoting myself. I'm quite happy to stay in the background, but if I can do something to promote the sport, or promote women in the sport, especially because we've got such a small amount of women competing in skiing, especially in blind skiing. I think that's more important overall.
((WN)) Most skiers are men?
- MP: There's more men competing in skiing, far more. The standards are a bit higher with the males than with the females.
((WN)) The for everyone else is functional ability, and you guys are a medical classification. Do you think you get a fair shake in terms of classification? Are you happy with the classification?
- MP: I think I'm happy with it, the way it's set out. With vision impairment I'm a B2, against other B2s. It may be the same category, but we have different disabilities, so there's not much more they can do. I think it's as fair as they possibly can.
((WN)) You like the point system? You're okay with it? Competing against and B3s even though you're a B2?
- MP: The factors even all that out. The way they've got it at the moment, I don't have any issues with them, the blind categories.
((WN)) What was it that got you skiing in the first place?
- MP: An accident, basically. Complete by chance. A friend of mine in the Department of Recreation used to run skiing camps in the South West region, and she had a spare spot at one of the camps. Knew that I was vision impaired, and: "Do you want to come along?" "Yeah, why, not, give it a go." This was back when I was about twelve, thirteen. I went, and I loved it. Went back again, and again, and again. And for the first five or six years I just skied for like a week a season sort of thing, like, you're on a camp. Fell in love with the sport; my skiing and the mountain atmosphere, I love it, and then, when I finished my HSC, I decided to take myself off to , and skiing , the disabled race program that was run by the ex-Australian who coaches Steve Boba, and I'd heard about it through Disabled Winter Sports Australia. And I thought I'd spend some time in Canada, which is for skiing, and had a year off between school and uni, so... first time I ran through a race course actually. It was pretty awesome. So I went back again the next year, and Steve [Boba] recommended me to , and he watched me skiing in September in the , and invited me on a camp with the Australian team, and I trained for Vancouver, and I qualified, and I said "sure, why not?" And here I am!
((WN)) So you liked Vancouver?
- MP: It was just an amazing experience. I came into Vancouver... I had quite a bad accident on a downhill course in about seven weeks out from the games, and I fractured my pelvis. So, I was coming into Vancouver with an injury and I had only just recovered and was in quite a lot of pain. So it was an amazing experience and I was quite glad I did it, but wish for a different outcome.
((WN)) So you are more optimistic about Sochi then?
- MP: Yes.
((WN)) One of the things about skiing is that it's really expensive to do. How do you afford to ski given how expensive it is? And the fact that you need a guide who's got his own expenses.
- MP: I'm lucky enough to rank quite high in the world at the moment, so due to my ranking I'm awarded a certain amount of funding from the , which covers my equipment and expenses, and the team picks up training costs and travel costs. All I've got to pay for is food and my own equipment, which is good, so I've managed to do it a budget.
((WN)) What do you do outside of skiing, because you look kind of young? And you being not like, 30 or 40?
- MP: I'm 24. I'm a student still.
((WN)) Which university?
- MP: . It's my third university degree. I've completed two others prior to this one that I'm doing now.
((WN)) Which degree? That you're currently pursuing.
- MP: Currently, physiotherapy.
((WN)) Because of your experience with sport?
- MP: Not really, except that my experience with sport certainly helped my interest and kind of fueled a direction to take in the physiotherapy field when I'm finished my degree, but more the medical side of injury, rehabilitation that got me interested in physiotherapy to begin with, burns rehabilitation and things like that.
((WN)) You view yourself a full-time student as opposed to a full-time professional skier.
- MP: Not really. I'm a student when uni's on and when uni's finished I'm a skier. The way that the term structure is in Australia it gives me all this time to ski. The uni starts at the end of February and goes to the beginning of June, and then we've got a six or seven week break until beginning or mid-August, and uni starts again then, and we go up to mid way through November, and then we've got a break again. Skiing fits in very nicely to that.
((WN)) What's the route for qualification to Sochi for you.
- MP: Just maintaining my points. At the moment I've qualified. I just need to maintain my points, keep my points under, and then I qualify for the Australian team.
((WN)) So there's a chance they could say no?
- MP: If I'm skiing really badly. An injury.
((WN)) Or if you're like those Australian swimmers who had the guns...
- MP: I've no sign of picking up a gun any time soon. Giving a blind girl a gun is not a good idea. (laughs)
((WN)) It just seemed to us that Sochi was so far away on out hand, and yet seemed to be in everybody's mind. It's on their program. Sixteen months away?
- MP: Yes, something like that. Sixteen. I think it's been on our mind ever since Vancouver was over and done with. Next season, that was that, it was like: "what are our goals for the next four years?" And it was, "What are our goals for the next three years and two years?" And subsequently, next season, it's Sochi. What we need to work on, what we need to accomplish for then, to be as ready as possible.
((WN)) What is your favourite event of all the skiing ones? You like the downhill because it's fast? Or you like Giant Slalom because it's technically challenging? Or...
- MP: I prefer the speed events. The downhill; frightens me but I do love the adrenalin. I'm always keen to do a downhill. But I think might just be my favourite.
((WN)) Do you do any other adrenalin junkie type stuff? Do you go ? Jumping out of airplanes? ?
- MP: I don't snowboard, no. I have jumped out of a plane. I thought that was fun but downhill has got more adrenalin than jumping out of a plane, I found. I do and . That's my other passion.
((WN)) Have you thought of qualifying for the Summer [Para]lympics in judo?
- MP: As far as I know, Australia doesn't have a judo program for the Paralympics. But, if I ever get good enough, then sure.
((WN)) They sent one.
- MP: They've sent one, and he's amazing. He beats up blind guys, able bodieds, quite constantly. I've seen video of him fight, and he's very very good. If I ever reach that level, then sure, it's something I'd look into it.
((WN)) Does judo help with your skiing?
- MP: Yes, it increases my agility and balance, and strength, for sure.
((WN)) I want to let you get back to changing. Thank you very much.