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PyeongChang 2018 - Lloyd Wallace back on track for PyeongChang after accident

Wallace back on track for PyeongChang after accident
By Sportsbeat

04/11/2017 at 13:35Updated 04/11/2017 at 16:52

Being the son of two Olympians could be viewed as a heavy burden for aerial skier Lloyd Wallace – not least when both parents competed in the same event as him.

But sometimes having that knowledge and understanding helps, as he learned when a heavy crash left him in a coma just three months ago.

A multiple national champion gymnast and competent all-round skier in his youth, Wallace junior first tried his hand at aerial skiing aged 14, following in the footsteps of mum and dad Robin Wallace and Jilly Curry who competed for Team GB at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Winter Games respectively.

The sport involves propelling oneself up to six metres in the air off a jump – often reaching speeds of up to 60-70kph – and then performing multiple flips and twists to impress judges before attempting to safely land again.

It is not without it's dangers, even during summer training when skiers land in water rather than on snow.

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"I've had big crashes in the past and psychologically I've had to get over those hurdles because crashing is a part of it unfortunately," explained Wallace.

"I think any sport that you put a crash helmet on for you know the risks, you're willing to take the risks."

As a 14 year old starting out, Wallace recalls going head first into a lake after a back flip went slightly wrong, but he was back to it, performing his first flip on snow not long afterwards.

Aerial skier Lloyd Wallace of Great Britain poses for a photo during the British Ski and Snowboard Media Day on October 31, 2017.

Aerial skier Lloyd Wallace of Great Britain poses for a photo during the British Ski and Snowboard Media Day on October 31, 2017.Eurosport

"It was just a normal training at the water ramp I'd done a few jumps already that session," recalls Wallace, about the incident during a routine training session in Mettmenstetten, Switzerland on August 17.

"That is the trick I've got my best result with, probably one of my most comfortable tricks. I was just very unlucky. I was coming down the ramp and I just caught an edge, apparently quite a bad edge, and it put me off balance."

"Because we go through so much compression when we go up the jump I buckled into the jump and hit from my hips to my head and was knocked out immediately."

Fortunately for Wallace, team doctors for Ukraine and Russia were nearby and able to haul him out of the water before he was airlifted to Zurich hospital and placed in a coma for 24 hours.

The young Brit, who suffered only severe concussion, remembers nothing of the accident, only waking up a few days later in hospital.

Given the potential of what could have happened though, some would not have blamed him for seeking his thrills elsewhere. But the Wallace family are made of sterner stuff.

"Both of my parents went to the Olympics doing this sport. My dad coached it for years and years," explained Wallace, whose younger sister Elodie is also part of the British Aerial Ski team.

"They knew it could happen, we're very happy that nothing serious did happen – well, nothing serious in the long term has happened and they're fine.

"There was never a point where we were thinking ‘Lloyd's going to come out of hospital and not ski again.'

"It didn't matter how long it was going to take, I was always going to get back on it and try and qualify for the Games."

A period of enforced rest and rehabilitation followed but Wallace was back training within two months and last month returned to the snow ahead of the new season.

"I was slightly more cautious but I think that's just a natural reaction. And luckily I didn't remember it so I think that psychologically it's not going to be as big a hurdle," added Wallace.

"I've just got to go, get back into it, do my best, make sure I'm feeling good jumping good and it's looking positive for the Games."

Team GB have not selected a male aerial skier since Kevin Harbut in 1998, though British skiers have recorded just three top-12 finishes over the years, Wallace's mother Jilly finishing just outside the medals in fourth at Albertville 1992.

Prior to his serious head injury, Wallace had been making significant progress on the international scene, including landing bronze at the Junior World Championships and his country's first ever Europa Cup gold, both in 2015. Last year he achieved Britain's best World Cup result since 1995 with seventh in Deer Valley.

Pyeongchang selection will be dependent on whether he can finish inside the world's top 25 by earning enough points from six World Cup events this season, starting in Beijing in mid December.

And Wallace, who first began competing on the same skis and in the same helmet used by his mum, is determined to keep the flag flying high for the family.

"I'm not expecting to go and get a medal but aerials is an incredibly high-risk sport," he said.

"There's four knockout rounds. If it goes well, anything can happen in competition. It's just one jump and every round is effectively a new competition so you crash one of those jumps, you're out.

"If it goes well for me, if I jump to the ability I know I can jump, I might be able to get myself into that super final. It's anyone's game then."

Chances are mum Jilly, dad Robin and sister Elodie will be watching on closely too. Sportsbeat 2017

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