Get be­hind Mark

Help skier achieve Par­a­lympic dream

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - By Si­mon Rup­pert

Aus­tralia’s num­ber one sit-skier, lo­cal man Mark Soyer, is seek­ing spon­sors as he aims to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia at the 2018 Par­a­lympic Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

State Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan will in­tro­duce a fundraiser for Mark at the Lake­side Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on Oc­to­ber 28, which com­mu­nity mem­bers are en­cour­aged to at­tend.

Ms Ryan said it was as­ton­ish­ing that some­one who did not spend a lot of time ski­ing grow­ing up was plan­ning to ski for Aus­tralia in the Win­ter Par­a­lympics.

‘‘After a life-chang­ing ac­ci­dent like Mark’s most peo­ple would strug­gle to re­turn to daily life, let alone set them­selves a goal of ski­ing for Aus­tralia,’’ Ms Ryan said. ‘‘Mark’s story is in­spi­ra­tional. ‘‘I re­ally hope peo­ple get be­hind this event, so that he can rep­re­sent us on the world stage.’’

Tick­ets are avail­able from Steph Ryan’s of­fice at 25 Bridge St, Be­nalla, from Heather Soyer on 0428 652 347, or on­line at­shopes-for-the-slopes-tick­ets37235523453 and cost $40. Book­ings close on Oc­to­ber 25. The evening will in­clude a pre­sen­ta­tion from Mark, plenty of fin­ger food, lots of give­aways, a live auc­tion and en­ter­tain­ment from lo­cal artist Adam Toms.

Some of the auc­tion items in­clude a bal­loon flight for two, a hot lap in a V8, hand-crafted jew­ellery, a week­end away for two and lots more.

Mark is ranked 21 in the world at sit-ski­ing de­spite the fact that he has lim­ited op­por­tu­nity to train, spend­ing about 75 per cent less time on the snow than his near­est ri­vals.

Mark has proved to be an in­spi­ra­tion to many dis­abled sports­peo­ple by self­fund­ing his achieve­ments through his own sav­ings and small fundrais­ers ar­ranged by those close to him.

How­ever, with­out spon­sor­ship his dream of com­pet­ing at Par­a­lympic level may not come true.

Mark has over­come many ob­sta­cles in his life, and said he has been work­ing to­wards get­ting to the Win­ter Par­a­lympics for the past 12 years.

‘‘(It’s) very im­por­tant, not only for my per­sonal achieve­ment but to have some­one at the top end of the sport to in­crease the pro­file of win­ter sport, so the sport grows,’’ Mark said.

‘‘Get­ting spon­sors on­board would be heaven.

‘‘But if it doesn’t hap­pen in my time and it hap­pens for some­one else, that would be good be­cause it would give a big­ger ex­po­sure to the win­ter sports, which would be great.’’

In 1981 Mark was di­ag­nosed with Acute Lym­phoblas­tic Leukaemia, which is a form of blood cancer, and en­dured three years of treat­ment.

De­spite suf­fer­ing a relapse not long after, he was even­tu­ally given the all clear and was com­pletely cured.

How­ever, in 2004 tragedy struck, while rid­ing his mo­tor­bike on the fam­ily farm he hit a log in long grass and broke his back, caus­ing per­ma­nent paral­y­sis.

Mark de­cided he would not let the ac­ci­dent and in­jury stop him from pur­su­ing his pas­sion for ski­ing and in 2006 he trav­elled to Colorado to at­tend two ski devel­op­ment camps for peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity.

The fol­low­ing snow sea­son he was ap­proached by a tal­ent scout who in­vited him to train with the Aus­tralian ski team at Thredbo.

He was sub­se­quently in­vited to join the Aus­tralian Par­a­lympic team in De­cem­ber 2006.

In Fe­bru­ary of 2007 Mark was hit by a car at a pedes­trian cross­ing, was thrown from his wheel­chair and re­quired treat­ment for sev­eral bro­ken ribs.

Mark has since gone on to com­pete at var­i­ous world-stan­dard com­pe­ti­tions bringing home four bronze medals and one sil­ver.

In 2015 he was given the hon­our of be­ing cho­sen as flag bearer for the Alpine Ski­ing World Cham­pi­onships in In­ver­mere, Canada.

Mark was back to com­pe­ti­tion in 2017 when he took part in the World Para Alpine Ski­ing Cham­pi­onships in Tarvi­sio, Italy.

How­ever, the 2017 World Cham­pi­onships turned into a night­mare for Mark who, after suf­fer­ing a fall at 130 kph, dis­lo­cated his shoul­der and was forced to pull out of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Mark is now fully fo­cused on mak­ing the 2018 Par­a­lympics and his train- ing regime sees him spend­ing hours in the gym — whether he is at the snow or not.

A stan­dard day of snow train­ing would in­clude two and a half hours on the snow, more than an hour in the gym and an­other hour on prep­ping skills.

Any­one can suf­fer a lifechang­ing in­jury at any time, and Mark is an in­spi­ra­tion to peo­ple who might find them­selves in that sit­u­a­tion.

His ad­vice is to lis­ten to doc­tors, get your health back to be­ing good, and don’t wrap your­self up in cotton wool.

‘‘If you were happy with your life be­fore your in­jury, you might have to do it dif­fer­ently but find a way to get back to what you were do­ing be­fore, and get on with liv­ing,’’ he said.

Spon­sors sought: Mark Soyer is aim­ing to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia at the 2018 Par­a­lympic Win­ter Games.

Man in mo­tion: Mark Soyer is Aus­tralia’s No 1 Sit-Skier.

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