Becoming the fastest disabled woman on earth
Being no stranger to overcoming challenges and adversity, Heather embarked on one of the biggest challenges of her life by attempting to write her name in the Book Of World Records by becoming the fastest disabled speed skier.
In her bid to become the fastest disabled woman in the world, Heather headed over to Vars, France, and joined up with the Austrian Speed Ski Team in what would result in a world record breaking attempt, an attempt that would see Heather reach speeds of up to 166.84 km/ph (103.6 mp/h).
Preparing for a World Record Speed Ski Attempt
Preparations for Heather’s attempt started long before her arrival in Vars. Work on her prosthetic ski leg started many months earlier.
Heather had teamed up with the London Prosthetic Centre to help create a prosthetic leg that would withstand the requirements of speed skiing.
As the fastest non-motorised sport on the planet, Heather would experience faster acceleration than most family cars on our roads today. From a standing start Heather would accelerate from 0 to 100km/ph (62 mp/h) in under 3 seconds, over a total track distance of one kilometre down an extremely steep mountain, which has a 48 degree gradient. Heather knew she was in for a rough ride and needed a prosthetic leg that would cope with the conditions.
The London Prosthetic Centre designed such a prosthetic leg. A leg that would allow Heather to withstand the stresses, and ultimately succeed, in her quest to become the fastest disabled woman on the planet.
“I have been a prosthetist for many years and made limbs for cycling and horse riding to Paralympic running challenges but nothing compares to skiing. It is the most difficult sport for an amputee.”
Abdo Haidar of the London Prosthetic Centre
"I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to The London Prosthetic Centre for all their hard work and time spent on the prosthetic leg. I couldn't have done it without you."
Equipment & Training
With the newly designed prosthetic leg now being used it was time to shift focus and turn attentions to the all important ski helmet. Working with Beat Engel, founder of Composite, Heather and Beat designed an aerodynamic helmet with micro cameras and sound equipment to capture every second of the action.
No film has ever encapsulated what a speed ski racer sees and feels, it's a hair raising, super fast ride and we wanted the viewer to be able to see, feel and hear the adrenaline rush Heather would experience on the day.
Now to start training, Heather teamed up with the Austrian Speed Ski Team and worked closely with them and her sponsors VBites (read more about VBites here) and Jonathan & Fletcher who created the specialist clothing and equipment Heather would need in her quest to become the fastest disabled woman on the planet. The specialist clothing and equipment would not only help her reach the optimum aerodynamic position but, most importantly, help keep Heather safe should she have taken a fall.
The clothing and specialist equipment took some time to get used to but was made much easier as the Austrian Speed Ski Team took Heather under their wing.
The Austrian Speed Ski Team head coach, Christoph Prüller, who trained the current able bodied world cup Crystal globe overall winner Klaus Schrottshammer said:
“Heather is an amazingly focused skier, she puts her heart and soul into it and most importantly has no fear. What she is trying to achieve seemed impossible to me when I was told but now, having worked with her and watching how she works consistently on her prosthesis, have proved that with her determination anything is possible.
Skiing with a prosthesis is the hardest form of speed skiing ever, you are never 100% sure what your prosthetic leg is doing in a tuck position as it has very little pressure on it.
I am an able bodied ex Speed Ski Racer and have reached a speed of 207.16km/ph in 2013 Verbier – so Heather aiming for speeds between 150 - 180 km/ph is an incredible challenge."
Heather kept up a strict training regime and impressed a number of the Austrian Speed Ski team members, managing to reach speeds of 140+ km/ph. Klaus Schrottshammer, Crystal globe champion said:
"She has an amazing tuck position, and this combined with her core strength , flexibility, aerodynamic position and bravery makes her a champion."
Training continued in what were difficult conditions and Heather continued to improve her technique and was continually bettering her times.
Speed Ski World Record Attempt Day
It was finally here, the day of Heather’s world record attempt, an attempt to become the fastest disabled woman on earth!
There was anticipation in the air. Would she set a world record? How fast will she go? Well take a look at the video below for yourself and see exactly what happened: -
Official, The Fastest Disabled Woman On The Planet!
Heather sets a world record with a speed of 166.84 km/ph
“I am so so happy, ecstatic is an understatement !!! I love to challenge people’s perception of disability and to inspire those in doubt of their abilities, disabled or not, to get off the sofa and do something that will fuel them with the will needed to live this roller coaster of a life. We must not let life fade away before it’s over, we only have a finite amount of seconds, lets live them…..".