TRENT Milton was, in his own words, “scraped off the road” two years ago. In March he will compete at the 2014 Winter Paralympics.
The 41-year-old snowboarder from Lake Cathie, a below knee amputee, will compete in the boardercross at the Sochi Games in Russia.
To understand the enormity of this achievement, we need to establish Milton’s sporting pedigree which counted for little on one fateful day in Bonny Hills.
“I was a professional snowboarder between the ages of 16 and 32,” Milton explained. “I was very fortunate to have a Green Card in the US and would spend time at Lake Tahoe and then time at Lake Cathie.”
But all that meant little when he was involved in a shattering accident two years ago.
“I was working as a manager at Bunnings. My life was great. But then everything changed when I was hit by a P-plater.”
Milton’s body was smashed. His leg was severed; he received countless other serious injuries and also acquired a brain injury.
But still, in recounting the incident, he found a positive.
“I was scraped from the road. And the only reason I’m here now is because in the car behind me there were two doctors - Andrew and Rebecca.
“They saved my life.”
For the first 28 days of his six-month stay in hospital, Milton suffered post-traumatic amnesia. The following 12 months were spent recovering, largely on his back.
The first words out of his mouth after overcoming amnesia were not just prophetic but a measure of the man’s competitive spirit.
“I just told my family I’d have to go to the Paralympics. Simple.”
What has followed has hardly been a one-man affair and Milton acknowledges the huge network of health professionals, family and friends who have supported his rehabilitation.
“I have a lot to be thankful for and it also helps that I’m an eternal optimist.”
So the man who rides his bike, races motocross, standup paddleboards, swims and surfs his way across the Camden Haven and Hastings is now our nation’s first Paralympic snowboarder.
His event - boardercross - is best described as a group of snowboarders starting at the top of an inclined course. The fastest down the hill wins.
It is, of course, anything but simple.
Milton, now ranked in the world’s top 20, visited Sochi earlier this year. A severe bout of influenza meant he could not compete in the test event back in March.
But for the man whose glass is perennially half-full, even that aborted mission was viewed positively.
“We have seen the hill, we have run the course several times in training and we assume it will be a very similar course for the Games next year,” Australia’s para-snowboard coach Pete Higgins said.
“We now we know what to expect. We know what the atmosphere will be and we know what the Games environment looks like. Those things are great steps forward in our preparation for next year.”
Back in Lake Cathie for now, Milton continues to prepare for the Games. On December 1 he leaves for a new wintery base in Austria.
The 2014 Winter Paralympics will be held between March 7 and 16. Milton’s event is on the second last day.
While he’s spoken to many of the emergency service workers who came to his aid at Bonny Hills in 2011, he hasn’t met the two doctors who he credits with saving his life.
“I want to do that after the Paralympics. Complete the circle.”