In Australia there is a special organisation for disabled water-skiers, Disabled Water-ski Australia. This organisation is a part of the DWSA, Division of Australian Water Ski & Wakeboard Australia, giving possibilities to people with disabilities to engage in different kinds of water sports. The athletes can compete in their own genres against each other or compete against athletes with no disability. Most athletes compete in what´s called mainstream three-event tournaments, which consist of slalom, trick and jump. These are also the events in the national championships. The DWSA also sends competitors to the World Disabled Water-Skiing Championship held somewhere in the world every other year. The competitors have several disabilities, like arm/leg amputees, paraplegia, blindness and vision impairment. Disabled Water-ski Australia live as they learn, “water-skiing is for everybody, and everybody can do it”, and have on many occasions invited disabled people to try the sport. We will try to give you a presentation of the most influential people in the sport in Australia.
Belinda Sidman was injured in a car accident when she was only 16 years old. The two others in the car were killed while Belinda was seriously injured and was forced to amputate her left leg. Instead of sitting by watching her friends water-skiing, Belinda started with a sit-ski. She discovered that she had a talent for this, and her successes came as quickly as her progress. She loves water-skiing and despite her will to win and all the training she puts in, just as much time she puts into hanging out with her family. She is one of the few women in the world to ski the outer course on a sit ski and she has represented Australia in every World Championship since 2011. She is not just a full-time athlete; she is also a nurse.
When Scott Wintle was backpacking through Europe in 1996, he was involved in a motorcycle accident in Switzerland ending up with him being partly paralyzed. Before the accident he was a devoted windsurfer and through a “Come and Try day” he re-joined the water sport about a year after his accident. His first competition was the nationals in 2001 where he qualified to the Australian National Team. Today, he is multiple times the World Champion and holder of the World record. Besides his career in water sports, he also played wheelchair basketball at a high level in the beginning of the 21st century. Privately he works as a graphic designer and has done a lot of work for the DWSA.
After crashing his quad into a tree, Jason Sleep became paraplegic. Before his accident, he was diligent in water sports and came from a family dedicated to water sports. Since Jason´s sister was the Australian champion in slalom water ski it didn´t come as a surprize that Jason continued his water-skiing career, but now sitting down. He says the only time he feels normal is when he can step away from his wheelchair and on to the water-skis. He has moved to the town Victoria to be able to practice every day. His list of merits as an athlete is long and to crown it, he won two gold medals in the World Championships in 2017, held in his homeland. He has also set a new World Record in Trick.
No matter which sport it is about, the common denominator is fighting spirit and joy of life. In sports for disabled the will to fight is the most important part. Many impaired athletes show that the love of the sport can conquer almost anything!