“It’s starting to sink in now, being in PyeongChang. When we arrived, it didn’t feel real. But now it is overwhelming and really exciting. It’s a feeling that I’ve never felt before. This whole experience is amazing."
The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) has announced today (6 March) its decision to select vision impaired alpine skier Shaun Pianta and guide Jeremy O´Sullivan as part of the PyeongChang 2018 team, but a final fitness test on his injured right knee will be required before his debut on 14 March.
Pianta has battled the odds since he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear on January 17.
He embarked on an intensive and highly structured rehabilitation process, including three weeks based at the Australian Institute of Sport, before being cleared to return to snow at the Australian Para Alpine Team’s training camp in Colorado, USA.
The nervous wait to prove his fitness continues, but at least the biggest hurdle has been cleared by earning selection into the Winter Paralympic team.
“I didn’t want to get my hopes up, only to be shut down. I prepared myself to be told that it wasn’t going to happen and then once I found out we were going to PyeongChang, it was a moment when I realised that everything I had worked so hard for was starting to come true,” Pianta said.
“The knee feels good. Sometimes I catch myself thinking ‘is there anything wrong with my knee?’ So it is feeling strong. Now it’s all about building my confidence, getting in those gates and trying to go fast.
“My confidence is coming back slowly. I’m getting more confident after every run and obviously the more time I get on snow this week, the more confident I’m going to get.”
The inclusion of Pianta and O’Sullivan now brings the total number of selected athletes to 12, along with three sighted guides, confirming Australia’s largest ever contingent to compete at a Paralympic Winter Games.
It also continues a dramatic campaign for the duo, who endured a hauntingly similar situation while on the verge of making their international debut in 2014. Pianta broke both of his legs in a training run, spent the next three months unable to walk and did not return to snow for seven months.
And after having to watch the rest of his teammates enjoy the thrill of being officially selected by the APC on 20 February, Pianta said it is a relief and a thrill to finally know his goal of becoming an Australian Paralympian is still alive.
“It’s starting to sink in now, being in PyeongChang. When we arrived, it didn’t feel real. But now it is overwhelming and really exciting. It’s a feeling that I’ve never felt before. This whole experience is amazing.
“I’ve just got to get over that final hurdle now.”
Guiding Pianta to fulfil his Paralympic ambition will be O’Sullivan, who said while he is excited to make his Paralympic debut, it has been a nail-biting final six weeks of a tumultuous campaign patiently waiting and hoping.
“Shaun has put an unbelievable amount of effort into it. Everything he has been through to keep fighting and get back on top has been awesome. I had no doubt that he would put everything he had into it,” O’Sullivan said.
“When we finally got the green light and knew we were going, it was a huge relief. There have been ups and downs for sure, but it is so good to be here in PyeongChang.
Full story is available on the Australian Paralympic Committee's website.