“The Push”

I came across this video on Netflx. Grant Korgan is a talented multi-sport athlete (mostly outdoorsy stuff like skiing and mountain biking). He gets injured badly in a snowmobile accident, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, although he starts to get some use back in his legs during rehab. His wonderful wife Shawna happens to be an exercise physiologist, and becomes his caregiver and trainer.

During rehab he decides he needs a challenge and finds out about an organization called The High Fives Foundation that works with adaptive athletes. They have an upcoming expedition designed to take the first adaptive athlete sit-skiing to the South Pole. So Grant signs up for this. There follow months of training 6-8 hours per day, and trial runs in Spitzbergen, an arctic Norwegian Island, in Patagonia, and in Fairbanks, Alaska. Shawna is OK about this expedition because a great deal of emphasis is placed on safety.

For me the most dramatic moment was when they land in a DC3 on the Antarctic plateau at 9000 feet, 50 below zero Fahrenheit. Grant takes his first push on the sit-ski and there is no glide, it only goes about 18 inches. He had been used to gliding 6 to 8 feet with each push in the trial runs. They don’t explain why but apparently there is something different about the Antarctic snow that makes the friction higher. Imagine the crushing psychological blow of realizing you’re going to have to take 4 to 5 times as many pushes per day to cover the required distance. But he perseveres. I won’t say more so as to not spoil the ending in case you want to watch it. Which I highly recommend- it is very uplifting.

This is on a nice day. But a lot of days were in whiteout conditions, what Grant calls “grinding away in the white room”

Stories like this put things in perspective for me. It makes rehabbing a rotator cuff seem pretty minor in comparison. I need to start dreaming about what challenge is in store for me next. I don’t think it’s Antarctica, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something fun.

2 thoughts on ““The Push”

  1. My guess is that Antarctic snow is just too cold to melt easily. It’s that melting that provides the lubrication for a longer glide. I’m surprised this issue didn’t arise in Spitzbergen – but maybe even there wasn’t cold enough?

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