Soldier taking skiing to new heights after losing a leg in blast
FOR most people, just learning to walk again after losing a leg would be a daunting challenge.
But Craig Gadd, who walks on a prosthetic limb after losing his left leg in a Taliban blast in Afghanistan, has gone one step further.
He is setting his sights on becoming a Paralympian.
Craig, a father-of-two, has taken up disabled skiing and is understood to be a serious contender for a place in Team GB at the 2014 Winter Paralympics.
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He said: "On the slopes, I get a real sense of freedom. It's so exhilarating."
The TA soldier, a keen skier before his injury in October 2010, uses a specially adapted mono-ski to thunder down slopes at breakneck speed.
Craig, 39, said: "I remember thinking to myself, 'that's the end of my skiing' when I got injured. You don't tend to think you can ski on one leg.
"But here I am – and I'm loving it."
Craig took up disabled skiing just five months after his patrol, sent to search for insurgents' bombs in Helmand province, ended in disaster.
"I was invited by Battle Back, a Forces' charity, to join a two-week skiing course in Germany," he said.
"I had a great time, so I kept at it.
"Last December, I went to Colorado in the US with the British Limbless Ex Service Men's Association (Blesma), another military charity, and it's gone from there."
Craig was recently approached by the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team.
Its ultimate aim is to feed athletes into the British Disabled Ski Team, which hopes to enter individuals into Team GB at the next Winter Paralympic Games in Russia.
Craig, who is undergoing treatment at Defence Military Rehabilitation Centre in Headley Court, Surrey, said: "Initially, when they approached me, I told them I wanted to concentrate on my rehab.
"But, after getting involved with events run by Battle Back and Blesma, I decided to give it a go.
"I am hoping I can get a place in the 2014 Winter Paralympics, which will take place in Sochi, Russia."
Craig says adapting to disabled skiing has been relatively straightforward, given his previous experience.
"Like everything, it seems hard to begin with," he said. "But you soon learn to adapt."
Craig has just received a £4,000 mono-ski.
It was paid for using a donation from 33 Engineer Regiment – the unit Craig deployed to Afghanistan with.
"The unit, which specialises in counter-IED (improvised explosive device) work, does a lot of fundraising," said Craig. "As you can imagine, due to the type of work they do, a lot of guys come back injured from Afghanistan.
"The unit has set up its Injured Soldiers' Fund.
"It awarded me £4,000, which I'm extremely grateful for, enabling me to buy my own ski and step-up the training."
The mono-ski uses the latest technology to ensure skiers can reach high speeds safely.
"You sit on a sort of sledge, with has a ski fixed to the bottom of it," he said. "You then have a set of single skis, similar to crutches, to increase stability."
Craig lives with partner Dolly Dalton, 43, and their daughter Daisy, two, in Beverley Road, north Hull.
Although he has been fitted with a prosthetic limb, doctors say Craig needs surgery to remove a bone growth.
The former builder will be confined, temporarily, to a wheelchair.
"I doubt the operation will take place until after Christmas," he said.
"It's a long process, but you just have to get on with it."