Interview with Joshua Dueck
A friend of mine asked me to try interviewing one of his skiing icons. It should be known, I'm not a skier, and I don't follow skiing. So when I first heard the name “Josh Dueck” I had to do the ever trustful google search and see what I could learn. It was a sad story that I started reading, but when I finally had the chance to Skype Josh over my reading week, he became an inspiration. From what I have learned, his story has inspired many more besides myself. Pretty impressive for being only 32 now and learning to ski at the age of 13 on a field trip in his hometown of Kimberly B.C.
His story may have gone one way, but took a drastic turn when he was 23 years old, ten years after learning how to ski. It was his first run of the day and there wasn't a cloud to see in the sky, he went to preform a trick he had mastered instead of a simple jump to check the hill. On the run, he gained to much speed, the front flip started late. A full rotation was complete, but he was still higher than expected. The second rotation started, and that's when Josh fell, face first from a height of ten stories. Waking up in the hospital, all Josh could muster was asking his father to pull the plug. He was paralysed and didn't see any reason to continue living. He was then, and always will be, a T11 full paraplegic from just above the waist down.
Now, Joshua Dueck is widely known in the ski community, for he's still a skier. Being paralysed from the waist down did nothing to stop him from his passion. Using a Sit-Ski, Josh worked on getting back to the snow. As of the 2010 Winter Paralympics, Josh is one of our nations silver medallists in the men's slalom sit-ski event and as of February 3rd, 2012 Josh became the first person in history to preform a backflip in a sit-ski over snow, an act that was seen by thousands online and granted him an invite from The Ellen Show only a few days after the act was achieved.
All of this can be found online, but it was after he woke up in the hospital that I wanted to ask some questions to Josh. My first was simple, when did he learn that sit-skiing was an option for him and what went through his mind when he heard it. I was pretty shocked when he told me it was the doctor who told him, only two hours after he had broken his back in the accident. Once the doctor saw the x-rays and noticed Josh wouldn't be able to ski again, he informed him of the option. There was no hesitation for Josh to get back to skiing, he knew that this is what he would do once he was medically cleared.
The year after his accident Josh took a break from, well, his regular life. As he states on his website, “2005 was a year full of wonder and curiosity as I explored the world from my new perspective”. When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me how he bought himself a nice Toyota Celica and travelled “all the remotest corridors of Western Canada”. Seeing family and friends who weren't able to make it to the hospital. As straight forward as it was, I had to ask because I was so curious.
“Josh, how successful were you on your first sit-ski run?”
The reply was what I expected, “Not successful in any traditional sense of the word.” Followed by a laugh.
He explained to me how a run he could previously do “with his eyes closed, backwards”, now took him two hours to do. It was a hard learning process. Once he found his balance, day three, everything came back to him. The love of the mountains, of trying something new, of exploration, of doing something that you really enjoy and entering what he calls “a flow state” were the world quiets out and he's only focused on the skiing, that's what kept him going to that third day when it all fell into place again.
Then, Josh and I had made it to his jump. The back flip that would be viewed by thousands. I asked him how and he felt when he decided to do it. He knew he could do it, but the fear was there. It was one of the hardest things he ever had to wrap his mind around, and he was terrified. After the training was complete and it was time to do the jump, his fear shifted to excitement.
The practice tries were all successful. Then the snow trial.. a perfect ski away after only the second try. Then laughter from Josh. He told me that this was something that he never viewed as being “the first to do” or even thinking that it would be a cool idea. Now, afterwards, he guesses it's a big deal.
Josh's life has no doubt changed. The accident has brought him to ski-skiing, and with the jump, Josh helped bring sit-skiing to the public eye. He was been able to represent Canada on the world stage. He was awarded a gold medal in the 2011 Aspen Mono Skier X in the X Games, and a bronze in the 2012 games. 2010 brought Josh his first paralympic medal. Being on Ellen was humbling and amazing for Josh, after all, he thinks she's hilarious and incredible. For the Rick Hansen Concert of Heroes, he was starstruck when he was introduced to the crowd by David Suzuki, a man he says “is just another man who's trying to figure out the world one day at a time, and doing a good job at it”.
A few weeks before Josh spoke to me, he had been skiing in Italy and Switzerland. Coming up, he will be going to Spain. Yet he wanted me to know, although he's been to some of the best ski areas in the world, it's the people that make the trip. He could be on a beautiful mountain in a far away country or maybe in a small hill in a backwoods area. Who he's skiing with make the moment.
Joshua Dueck told me as we finished up that if he's learned anything, it's don't let anything get in the way of your passion. Whatever the passion, or the obstacle may be. After all, Josh wanted to represent Canada in the Olympics and win a medal. Not even breaking his back got in the way of that.
I think the man probably knows what he's talking about.