SNOW LIM­ITS

Los­ing a leg and suf­fer­ing a brain in­jury couldn’t stop MacLeod from chas­ing suc­cess on the slopes

Scottish Daily Mail - - Sports Mail - By KATE McGREAVY

WHAT bike was I on?’ Andy MacLeod asked the nurse, per­haps of­fer­ing a lit­tle in­sight into the psy­che of this re­mark­able young man. Still only 18, the self-con­fessed adren­a­line junkie had just found out he had lost his right leg be­low the knee and suf­fered a brain in­jury af­ter be­ing knocked off the road by a car five days be­fore.

It was March 7, 2011, and MacLeod was near­ing the end of his first year as a stu­dent when it hap­pened. Study­ing Ad­ven­ture Tourism Man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of the High­lands and Is­lands had al­lowed him to con­tinue his pas­sion for out­door sports.

MacLeod, from Lewis, was on his way to see some friends be­fore go­ing to a bar­be­cue in Fort Wil­liam — for the record, he was on a moun­tain bike he used for com­pe­ti­tions — only to ‘wake up in hos­pi­tal without a leg’. An itch on his right foot that he couldn’t scratch sim­ply con­fused mat­ters.

‘The last thing I re­mem­ber is from the Fri­day night — and the ac­ci­dent was on the Mon­day night at around 9pm,’ says MacLeod.

He was in hos­pi­tal for just un­der a month. Left in a con­fused state, his mother, Chris­tine Jaf­fray, kept a di­ary of her son’s progress.

‘It’s kind of funny to look back on now as there was just some ran­dom stuff that I was com­ing out with,’ he ad­mits.

At vary­ing times, MacLeod was adamant that he lived in a car­a­van and was also con­vinced he was in Queens­land, Aus­tralia, de­spite nei­ther be­ing the case.

And yet, de­spite his or­deal, he never once con­tem­plated not be­ing able to do sport again.

‘I don’t re­mem­ber any­thing about my ac­ci­dent at all but there was one thing that I re­mem­ber,’ he says. ‘The plas­tic sur­geon who worked on me came into the hos­pi­tal bed­room and said: “Do me a favour and send me a pic­ture when you’re up and walk­ing again”.

‘I said: “I’ll send you one bet­ter of me back on my bike”.

‘I never ac­cepted that I wasn’t go­ing to get back to my sports. I didn’t en­ter­tain the thought. A lot of my out­look on it all has been I don’t know what I’m go­ing to be ca­pa­ble of un­til I try.’

Just two days be­fore the ac­ci­dent, MacLeod had started snow­board­ing and it was the thought of get­ting back to the sport that spurred him on.

Now, six years on, he will rep­re­sent Team GB as an able­bod­ied snow­boarder at the Fed­er­a­tion In­ter­na­tionale de Ski Snow­board Cross Cham­pi­onships in De­cem­ber and the Europa Cup com­pe­ti­tions that fol­low.

If he gains enough points in those com­pe­ti­tions, he can take part in the World Cham­pi­onships and then could progress to the Olympics or Par­a­lympics, al­though he will miss next year’s Games in South Ko­rea.

It is just the be­gin­ning of what he hopes will be a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as an ath­lete.

‘It was some­thing I had al­ways wanted to try but I didn’t know any­body that did it,’ he says of snow­board­ing. ‘I didn’t know any­thing about the sport, how to get into it or any­thing,’ says MacLeod. ‘But then I went to uni­ver­sity and ev­ery­body on the course was ei­ther a skier or a snow­boarder, so I was able to try it then.

‘I loved it and picked it up re­ally quickly as well.

‘I tried skate­board­ing as a teenager but it just wasn’t for me be­cause the board wasn’t at­tached to my feet. It didn’t do what I told it to do!

‘But with snow­board­ing, it’s at­tached to your feet, so it kind of does what you want it to do.’

MacLeod’s op­ti­mism and de­ter­mi­na­tion was demon­strated by the speed with which he got back to walk­ing and then tak­ing part in sport.

It took him around three-and-ahalf months to get back to walk­ing with his pros­thetic leg. Within just five months, he was cy­cling and, in De­cem­ber of the same year, he was back snow­board­ing.

‘I read an ar­ti­cle in an Amer­i­can sports mag­a­zine about an abovethe-knee am­putee who could still snow­board and by that point I was al­ready back on my bike so I bought my­self a new board be­fore I even knew I could snow­board again,’ adds the 25-year-old.

‘Then I just went for it and picked it up.’

MacLeod has com­peted in just one event so far, a fundrais­ing slalom race in Brae­head for Dis­abil­ity Snows­port UK in May 2014, where he won but was the only snow­boarder com­pet­ing.

He grad­u­ated ex­actly five years af­ter start­ing his BA be­cause of the ac­ci­dent and in­sists his plans have not al­tered too much since the col­li­sion, but have just ‘got a very dif­fer­ent spin’.

MacLeod first met the paraath­lete coach Si Ni­chol­son in De­cem­ber 2016 but his court case was still on­go­ing, so he was un­able to join up with the team in time for the 2018 Par­a­lympic Games.

‘I’m a bit sad that I didn’t join early enough to go for that but it gives me more time,’ he says.

‘I’m look­ing for­ward to rac­ing in able-bod­ied cat­e­gories, be­cause that’s what I’ve al­ways done.

‘If I can com­pare my­self to them and can com­pete with them then I’m def­i­nitely do­ing well.’

The court case ended in March, six years to the day of his ac­ci­dent. He re­ceived com­pen­sa­tion with the help of his so­lic­i­tors, Water­mans, who are also go­ing to back him by pur­chas­ing a rac­ing snow­board.

MacLeod, who has climbed Ben Ne­vis, car­ried the Lon­don 2012 Olympic torch and the Glasgow 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games torch, and was then se­lected for Team GB in May.

His long-term aim is to be part of Team GB for the 2022 Win­ter Par­a­lympic Games in Bei­jing but if he gets into the top 30 rank­ings in the able-bod­ied cat­e­gory, he would qual­ify in that class.

‘I don’t know if there would be reg­u­la­tions against me com­pet­ing be­cause some peo­ple might see hav­ing a snow­board-spe­cific pros­thetic leg as be­ing ben­e­fi­cial,’ he says. ‘There’s noth­ing to com­pare to hav­ing your own an­kle.

‘How­ever, it’s in­cred­i­ble just to have these op­por­tu­ni­ties.

‘I never dreamed that I would get to this level in snow­board­ing.’

Through­out Andy’s case, he was sup­ported by so­lic­i­tors Water­mans Ac­ci­dent Claims and Care. The le­gal firm is set to con­tinue that sup­port by pro­vid­ing Andy with a brand new snow­board for his train­ing camp and com­pe­ti­tions over the com­ing months. For more in­for­ma­tion, see water­mans.co.uk.

Board games: MacLeod is thriv­ing in his cho­sen sport and climbed Ben Ne­vis in 2013 (in­set)

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