Former Paralympic skier and Auckland, New Zealand native, Pete Williams recalls the reasons for his love of skiing.
“It was just me and the snow,” said Williams.
Born with spina bifida into a family of what he deems ‘sporty people,’ Williams was always trying to find a way to compete on the same level as his family and friends.
“I enjoyed the freedom,” said Williams of skiing. “It wasn’t that I was really good at it. It was that I could do it on the same level of my friends and family. There were no separate rules.”
While on a skiing trip in the United States in the early 1990s, Williams’ parents saw a man using a mono-ski. They approached the man and told them about their son, he recommended a bi-ski for Williams.
“I took to it like a duck to water,” said Williams.
Williams was skiing for about a year before someone asked him if he would be interested in racing. A naturally competitive person, he went for it. He did so well that a member of the Japanese Paralympic team approached him after the race with an enticing offer to go train with him in Japan.
Williams accepted the offer and, at only 12 years old, packed up his bags and moved to Japan for three months.
While competing in 1998, Williams caught the eye of selectors for the New Zealand Paralympic Team who asked him to come train with them for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Paralympic Games.
This would mean Williams would spend the next three years chasing winter and leaving his education behind.
All of his life Williams had heard that he wouldn’t finish high school and that there wasn’t any way that he would attend college. Fueled by the need to prove his doubters wrong, Williams set aside skiing and instead pursued an education.
“I didn’t want to finish ski racing in my mid to late twenties and then have to start my undergraduate,” said Williams.
During his last year of college, Williams decided to give skiing a go again and was once again approached by selectors for the New Zealand Paralympic Team.
“It was now or never,” said Williams.
Williams spent his first season with the team in 2006 training in Winter Park, Colorado trying to meet the score needed to be placed on the team that would compete in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games. Competitive skiing, like golf, is based on a low score. At the beginning of the training season, each skier is given 999 points and uses competitions to get that score to qualifying levels of under 100 points.
After his first season, Williams was already under 200 points which put him in the top 50 skiers in the world
March 15, 2010 - Source: Hannah Johnston/Getty Images North America (Credit)
He spent eight winters back to back training for the Paralympics. This routine of no rest left Williams’ body prone to injury.
Plagued by multiple injuries in his second season, Williams returned in time to compete in one last qualifying race. The stakes couldn’t have been higher, as he had to place in order to make the team for the Vancouver Games.
He achieved the placement, but heard nothing about officially making the team. After three months of waiting, Williams received a call confirming that he would be joining the team for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games.
“It was the most frustrating three months of my life,” said Williams.
At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games Williams placed 20th and 22nd in the Men’s Giant Slalom Sitting and Men’s Slalom Sitting competitions, respectively.
After competing in the 2010 Games, Williams chose to leave the sport to chase other opportunities: getting engaged, buying a house, and finding a job.
While his priorities have shifted, he still makes the time to go skiing at least once a year now, not to be competitive, but to just enjoy the sport. Something Williams said took some getting used to.