Laurie’s new dream for Paralympic success
A motocross rider who was left disabled after a crash is determined to represent her country at the Winter Paralympics.
A motocross accident in 2004 left Hitcham schoolgirl star Laurie Squirrell paralysed and facing the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
But now the sportswoman is plunging down steep mountainsides on a monoski, set on achieving new goals.
Last year Laurie defied the odds and climbed back in the saddle to ride her old race motorbike and now she is determined to be the best on a monoski.
She said:”My bike accident was a shock but I realised that I had to accept what had happened. Since then I have been determined not to let what happened to me stop me from doing something I love - and I just love to compete.
“The sit-ski is an extraordinary machine – it is like ordinary skiing but of course you have to adapt your technique because you are effectively sitting down.
“But the challenge is exactly the same – you push off and head downhill, negotiating flags on the course just like ordinary downhill skiers.”
Competitors race in a seat that is attached by a spring to a specially-adapted wider single ski, with poles used for support.
She is now practising hard on the snow-covered slopes of Colorado on her monoski to perfect her technique – but the risks are high. Like downhill skiers, monoskiers reach speeds of 60mph.
She will stay in the US mountains until the end of next month – Colorado is said to have the best facilities in the world for monoskiers.
Once hailed as the most promising female motocross rider in the country, Laurie’s future looked bleak as she struggled to come to terms with her injuries.
Last summer in an extraordinary show of courage and determination she climbed back in the saddle of her old motorbike to race across fields.
After more than a decade of living with her disability, Laurie defied surgeons who said she would never ride again by racing around on her original Yamaha 125cc machine that had been adapted by her father Richard.
The next winter Paralympics are being held in South Korea next March.
They are a goal for Laurie and though she admits she may not have reached a high enough standard in just 12 months, she is determined to get to the Games eventually.
A monoski is used by skiers with lower limb disabilities including paralysis and was developed in Austria in the 1980s.
Their fundamental adaptation was first used competitively on the world stage at the 1988 Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
The Squirrell family have put all their efforts into supporting of ground-breaking research into stem cell treatment.
She has joined the “Wings For Life” campaign run by F1 team Red Bull and last year addressed a meeting of several hundred of the team’s staff at their Milton Keynes HQ to give a talk about her accident and coping with life in a wheelchair.
The Red Bull charity is helping pioneering spinal cord injury research and treatment which experts hope will one day enable paraplegics to live a more active life.
Laurie has just got a 2:1 honours degree from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge in education and child studies and hopes to become a primary school teacher.
Now she is looking forward to competitive monoskiing. “Once a racer, always a racer,” she said.