SW hopeful chance for Games, defying the odds

Headshot of Mitchell Woodcock
Mitchell WoodcockSouth Western Times

Vision impaired slalom alpine skier Shaun Pianta is no stranger to set backs.

Two broken legs in 2014 threatened to end his career just two years after taking up the sport and now a slight tear in his anterior cruciate ligament could hamper his goal of making the Australian Paralympic Games team that will compete in March.

But Pianta, 28, is refusing to have surgery, instead believing it is worth the risk of further damage in competition to realise his dream.

Pianta met the points criteria to qualify for this year’s Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea after performing well around the world in 2017 and is now waiting to hear if he will realise his dream.

The Collie resident said he had returned home from training in Austria for rehabilitation, before meeting up with the rest of the team in Colorado, USA for the final preparations.

“It is not a full tear, but it is not good anyway,” he said.

“I will be giving it my best shot, competing against a lot of guys who have been racing for a long time, but if I give it my best shot hopefully I can be competitive.”

Blind ski racer Shaun Pianta (Black jacket) and his guide Jeremy O'sullivan (Blue Jacket) train ahead of this year’s Games.
Camera IconBlind ski racer Shaun Pianta (Black jacket) and his guide Jeremy O'sullivan (Blue Jacket) train ahead of this year’s Games. Credit: News Corp Australia

Pianta has just 10 per cent vision after a virus he contracted while white water rafting in Bali in 2008 damaged his optic nerve.

He skis with a sighted guide in front of him, with the pair communicating through bluetooth headphones.

“He gives me cues all the way down the hill down the course,” he said.

“It is an amazing thrill to ski down a hill when you cannot see very well.”

Pianta admits he was unsure of what he was going to do in the first few years after the damage to his optic nerve, but once he found skiing he was hooked.

“It gave me the drive to do something and achieve something at this level,” he said.

“It worked as therapy in a way to help me work through and deal with the situation I was in.”

Pianta said the chance to represent Australia would be unbelievable.

“It is everything I have been working towards for the past five years,” he said.

“All those set backs will be worthwhile.”

Pianta believes he has at least another run at the Paralympic Games after this, but for now his main focus it to make it to South Korea in March to show the world his skills.

Pianta went to Canberra on Tuesday to continue his rehabilitation, before meeting the rest of the team in Colorado.

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