All down hill from here to success
Skier changes channel on disability
ChangetheChannel the subject line. Hawera man Andrew Fleming loves skiing at Cardrona, relishes his life-coaching business and celebrates his independence.
It is nearly 15 years since a quad-bike accident caused serious spinal injuries and robbed the former farmer, now 46, of the use of his legs.
Fleming was an accomplished water and snow skier before his accident and began snow skiing again at Cardrona Alpine Ski Resort a few years ago.
This August he is returning again to carve up the mountain on his mono-ski rig with fellow adaptive skier Ian Rowe of New Plymouth.
Just months after Fleming’s accident, his wife left him and he got down in the dumps. During his recovery, he became the $265 dollar man – surviving on a small weekly ACC income because in his previous life he had not factored the possibility of a permanent disability into his financial plans.
When darkness descends, rebuilding a meaningful life can seem impossible but the determined Fleming emerged with fresh life plans, a new career and a passion for Cardrona.
He describes how he achieved all this and more in his book, Change the Channel, launched last November.
Fleming says Cardrona’s adaptive ski programme and terrain makes the sport so much easier for wheelies such as himself and friends Rowe and Corey Peters, the Paralympian silver medalist skier.
Cardrona was ‘‘better than anywhere else’’ for adaptive sport but despite conquering dozens of challenges on his road to recovery, Fleming admits to ‘‘feeling the fear’’ and not being as brave a skier as his friends.
‘‘No, competitions are not for me! It is just about skiing. But even when I was ablebodied, it was just about skiing.’’
Fleming says he might become bolder as he improves but he is conscious he is not getting any younger and more injuries could make things harder for him.
Rigs such as Fleming’s Japan-made Nissin cost about $10,000 each. They are imported by World Wheel Products, a business set up by Rowe and Wanaka’s Quentin Smith.
Fleming said it took ages to save for the Nissin because for many years, his financial focus on acquiring a modest property portfolio of four houses.
Pain has been huge factor in Fleming’s life post-accident. He went back to work at his family’s poultry farm afterwards but his changed circumstances meant the work was exhausting, painful and stressful. He decided to change tack and explore things he wouldn’t have previously considered.
Passive income from property investment, plus his ACC entitlements, gives him the security and independence he needs to balance his work and ongoing rehabilitation.
Fleming says he has accumulated a wealth of experiences that more than balance the loss of potential he might have had as an able-bodied worker.
He is now in a much happier place and enjoys coaching others to fulfil their potential. Clients are from all walks of life and have all sorts of reasons for needing to change.
‘‘If I can expand that tunnel they are looking down and get bit more of a view of the periphery, that helps break down the challenge . . . A lot of it is about how emotions are linked to self esteem. If people can understand that link, get on top of their emotions, that can get them through change,’’ he said.
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