Mayberry's quest for gold

EIGHT years ago Marty Mayberry was rated a one-in-10 chance of surviving meningococcal.

This weekend he and 10 team-mates begin their quest for gold at the Vancouver Paralympic Games.

Mayberry, 24, of Ewingsdale, is part of Australia’s biggest ever Paralympics team and will be skiing for gold in all four alpine events – downhill, slalom, giant slalom and super G (super giant slalom).

Not bad for a bloke who has had both legs amputated below the knee.

As a 16-year-old, Mayberry contracted the deadly meningococcal disease while on a school camp.

The results were – or could have been – devastating.

But a spirited Mayberry made the most of a terrible situation – prosthetic legs allowed him to pursue his love of skiing and go on to represent his country.

“Ironically, the disease gave me this great opportunity,” Mayberry said.

This Sunday, Mayberry will begin the chase for gold when his campaign gets underway with his pet event, the downhill.

He will surge down the slopes at speeds of up to 130km/h – just enough to get a rush.

“You don’t really realise how fast you are going until you have a fall,” he said.

“It is just fast enough to keep you coming back without getting too scared.”

Mayberry has been a skiing since he was five but thinks that he goes better now than he ever could have as an able-bodied athlete.

“When I’m in full flight it’s as if I’m skiing on real legs,” he said. “It has become second nature now. I forget about the prosthetics and it just feels like I have numb feet.”

The medal hopeful missed the dais at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy, but has tuned up for the 2010 Games with World Cup gold at Aspen in the downhill just last week.

Vancouver is no doubt Mayberry’s time to shine.

“I am skiing as well as I ever have right now,” he said. “There are no guarantees in this sport but I am optimistic there could be some medals coming our way.”

Athletes competing at the Paralympics have a range of disabilities and are handicapped accordingly; run times are multiplied by a figure which represents the degree of disability each athlete carries.

Mayberry remains the world’s only elite double amputee alpine skier and therefore has a greater multiplier than most.

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