How a fall threatened Paralympic skier Millie Knight’s Beijing campaign
As she prepares to compete in the Beijing 2022 Paralympics, visually-impaired skier Millie Knight admits she still struggles with the psychological effects of a fall that saw her hospitalised for 3 days.
The 23-year-old, who suffered concussion when she had a bad fall during preparations for the 2021 Para Alpine World Cup event in Austria, believed she might never ski again. Instead, she is preparing to compete at her third Winter Games, a competition she believes will be the most emotional yet.
Millie, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support with the help of National Lottery funding, can hardly believe she will be on the starting line in Beijing.
She said, “It’s amazing I’m taking part considering the struggles, injuries and challenges that we’ve had. I’m pretty proud. It’s taken a lot of determination – I still can’t really believe that I’m sitting here going to my third Games considering the place where my head was in half a year ago.”
Millie became the youngest athlete to represent ParalympicsGB at a Winter Games when she took to the slopes in Sochi aged 15. Her hat-trick of alpine skiing medals – 2 silver, 1 bronze – at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games saw her emerge as one of the leading lights of the British team.
While she is accustomed to bouncing back from adversity – she suffered several concussions before her triumphant performances in PyeongChang – Millie said her most recent fall has affected her more profoundly. She said, “I genuinely thought: ‘how can I even put skis back on, how can I do it when I know I’ve got so much fear these days’?
“There were lots of times during the recovery when I questioned whether I was going to recover properly. Would I get back to 100 per cent Millie the athlete, and even Millie the person? Am I going to get back to the level that I was at? Am I going to be way behind?”
Despite her fears, Millie arrives in Beijing with momentum. She used the Christmas break to accelerate her recovery and won gold with guide Brett Wild in Super Combined (a category incorporating elements from several events) at the 2022 Para Snow Sports World Championships in Lillehammer.
Winning a bronze in the Super-G (giant slalom) on her 23rd birthday helped further build her confidence ahead of Beijing.
Millie and Brett will compete in 5 events in China, but the downhill and Super-G – where they won 2 silvers in PyeongChang – represent their strongest podium hopes.
The alpine ace knows she’s evolved as a skier and admits enjoying the moment, not medals, is her top priority nowadays.
She said, “I’m a different skier now; I’m a more mature skier, who takes less risks, but I work super hard in the gym, so I know I’m strong. If we come away from these Games without a medal, that’s not going to be disappointing for us – it’s about performing well and being proud of what we’ve done.”
9th March 2022
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