End of era for one-legged ski stars

Written by admin on 30/07/2019 Categories: 苏州美睫

One-legged skier Toby Kane can squat 120 kilograms.


Given his right leg is amputated below the knee, he needs a prosthetic to complete the task.

But Kane carries 80 per cent of the load on his good limb.

It may be nearly double his own weight, but it’s standard training for the 27-year-old who’s just wrapped up his third and final winter Paralympic Games with a bronze medal.

Kane is one of only four mono-skiers and the sole male to get a podium result in Sochi, such is the difficulty of careering down a mountain at 120km/h on one limb.

He specialises in speed, favouring the longer but faster downhill and Super-G events.

Heavy-duty strength in his leg, glutes and core are crucial if Kane wants to stay competitive against his more stable two-skied counterparts who are also allowed in his standing class.

To have a chance at winning he needs enough stamina to maintain acceleration over a two-kilometre course while negotiating turns, bumps and compressions.

Every second turn puts his good leg on the inside, forcing him to balance on his outside edge – an anomaly among skiers all over the world.

In readiness for Sochi, Kane squeezed four 90-minute strength and endurance sessions a week into his study schedule as a fourth-year medicine student.

His latest, most gruelling exercise was designed to gain power towards the end of races and involves tying therabands around his waist with 50kg suspended on each side.

On one leg he’d drop down to simulate a skiing tuck, holding for a minute while moving gently in and out.

“It was the worst exercise I have done by a long way,” says Kane.

“I did three one-minute reps, and after that my leg wouldn’t function how it should for about 20 minutes. I struggled to walk.”

The result is an efficiency and ease on the slopes so remarkable that two-skied rivals are quick to praise.

Former able-bodied junior world champion Matthias Lanzinger switched to disabled sport after a horror crash during the 2008 World Cup left doctors with no choice but to amputate his left leg below the knee.

The Austrian, who won silver in the men’s Super-G and super-combined in Sochi, chose to race on two skis with a prosthetic after finding one too arduous.

“If I had to do it on one ski, I would not have had the chance to get that medal,” Lanzinger said.

“I have really big respect for Toby and the other mono-skiers. They are the craziest guys here, and the best athletes – they have to be.

“All of us on two skis have that power in our legs to finish. On one leg you need four times as much power.”

Kane’s right leg was amputated below the knee after he was hit by a car on the sidewalk as a two-year-old.

His disability classification allows him to choose whether he prefers to use one ski or two, but the decision was taken out of his hands by his instructor when he was five.

“I used to have competitions with my instructor who would ski on one ski even though he had two legs. If he put down his other leg that would be a fall,” Kane said.

“It took quite a few trips to the snow each year to get to the point where I had good balance and could move down the hill.”

“But I didn’t realise when I was younger that having two good legs on skis is a fair advantage.

“Those guys have a level of consistency that’s hard for us to achieve.

“The harder we go the more likely we are to crash.”

Kane tried two skis once as a teenager, but once was enough to put him off.

“I’m not sure why, but I decided to go night skiing on two skis one night in Canada,” he said.

“I wore a bad-quality prosthetic, had a crash and my leg came off, and I went `well, that’s that’.”

The length of an athlete’s stump also matters – any longer than Kane’s and it’s a hazard.

“Sometimes I catch it on the snow when my ski is a long way away and I’m angled.

“Whereas you look at someone like Cam (Rahles-Rahbula), the shortness of his stump actually allows him to really open up his hips without catching it or hitting a gate.”

Rahles-Rahbula is also a mono-skier, having lost his left leg above the knee to bone cancer when he was 14.

The Vancouver dual bronze medallist, who was forced to withdraw from his fourth Games in Sochi after fracturing his tibia, says the discipline is a challenging one worldwide.

“It’s a little bit unique compared to other disabilities, and we don’t fit into the same local programs.

“We’ve been very lucky that Australia’s been very supportive of one-legged skiing.”

And it’s showed.

Before Torino 2006 the category system changed, reducing the number of alpine skiing medals available by around two-thirds, as those with upper- and lower-limb disabilities were thrown into the same event and separated by time handicaps.

In the three Games since then, the only male athletes in the world to have won a Paralympic medal on a single ski are Australian – Kane, Rahles-Rahbula and Paralympic legend Michael Milton, who tallied five between them.

With both Kane and Rahles-Rahbula retiring it’s an end of an era for Australian one-legged skiers.

“In one sense I’m kind of dreading leaving,” Kane said.

“But there’s another part of me that’s really looking forward to living a bit more of a normal lifestyle.

“I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved, so I think it’s probably a good time to step away.”

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