Not even a near-catastrophic accident on the ski fields last week has dampened Josh Hanlon's determination to be a part of next year's Winter Paralympics.
Barely 10 days after he came to grief on his sit-ski, Hanlon is powering through his rehabilitation at home in Weethalle and eyeing a return to the snow in September.
Hanlon was skiing with members of the Australian Winter Paralympics squad at Blue Cow, near Perisher.
"It was a pretty crappy day and we were skiing a T-bar run that we don't usually ski. I had done six or seven laps on it and I thought, 'Stuff it, I'll go heaps quicker on this next run and see what the ski is going to do," Hanlon said.
"I ended up getting caught up on the third turn and sent it straight over the side of the run. I jumped over a big mound of snow and landed in a tree, then bounced through the tree. It was just a big compression and my spine bent to the left and cracked four of those transverse processes on the left-hand side."
Still stuck under the tree, Hanlon asked his coach to unbuckle him from his ski and was able to climb out. He was taken by stretcher and ski-doo to Perisher for pain relief and x-rays before going by ambulance to Cooma Hospital.
"I thought it couldn't be too bad because I could feel my legs and nothing was tingly. But I knew I'd torn something or broken bones somewhere because of the amount of pain," he said.
"But I knew it wasn't too bad. From all reports, if you're going to break a bone in your back, they're the ones to break."
Hanlon was able to walk out of hospital before a week of rest and recovery at home. He's now had two full days out of bed and wants to keep working on strengthening his muscles and allowing the bones to heal.
"Pain is your guide. The first week was pretty steady but I'll just keep working on all the little muscles in there," he said.
"I'm heading back to Jindabyne next week I think. I just wanted to get home, do some exercises and make sure my back was going to tolerate what I need to do."
The medical estimate is four-to-six weeks for the bones to heal and the former North Wagga footballer is anticipating the end of August as the ideal time to see how he's travelling.
The aim is to be back on the slopes in September and then head to Europe in late November for - hopefully - qualification for the 2022 Winter Paralympics in China which begin in March.
About to turn 24, Hanlon said he was starting to ski better this year and was in prime physical shape nearly three years after the illness that almost took his life, and required his lower legs and hand to be amputated.
"All the training I've done since last season, and playing in the Wheelchair Rugby (National Championship on the Gold Coast), I feel heaps stronger in general," he said.
"I couldn't believe it, going through all this crap again but hopefully I'll bounce back pretty quick. I'm probably pretty lucky it hasn't happened before now and I'm pretty lucky that it happened while I'm in this physical condition.
"I reckon if I had this crash last year, I would be in a lot worse condition... it would've taken me a lot longer to get back skiing. But the body has held up and I should be right to get back into it as soon as these bones have healed up."
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