Former Paralympian Terry Ahrens was the last person to Nordic ski for Great Britain on the Paralympic Games. Since being injured at just 22 years old, he has shown pure determination to live his life to the fullest. At 47 years old, he is training hard to have another chance of Paralympic glory at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.
Terry was 16 years old when he joined the Army and served as a sergeant in the Queen's Royal Lancers cavalry regiment.
“It was something I always wanted to do. From a young age I joined the Cadets and I was passionate about it.”
After his training, Terry was based in Germany as a Gunner and learnt trades on the battle tanks. He completed tours of Kosovo, Cyprus, Belize and Canada.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the life in the Army. Every day is different. You’re constantly working towards the inevitable and I embraced all of it.”
Although Terry continued his military career post-injury, the course of his service was changed at just 22 years old when he was hit by a car whilst riding his pushbike. The impact ripped two nerve roots from his spine and left his paralysed in his left arm. He woke up in hospital 3 days later with no memory of the accident.
Doctors initially warned Terry he would never walk again after fearing he’d snapped his spine. But he proved them wrong.
“Everything in life is more of a challenge. You have to do things in different ways and the simplest things are often the hardest. I like to embrace it and find it a good challenge to figure out how I’m going to get around things.”
Sadly, Terry’s injuries meant he could no longer work on battle tanks and fulfil a front-line role. He was determined to stay in the Army and was moved into logistics. He ended up serving for 23 years and left service at the age of 40.
“My attitude was resolutely that this would not beat me. I showed the Army I was still employable and I avoided medical discharge. I took on jobs I could do and did them to the best of my ability.
“The main difficulty for me was the realisation I couldn’t work on tanks. But you have to deal with it and accept your path has changed and play with the cards you’ve been dealt.
“It took me to a dark place and there were moments where I thought “why me?” I got myself through that and I didn’t let it get me down too much. Since then, I’ve led a full life and the injury hasn’t stopped me from doing anything.”
As Terry puts it, “I didn’t choose skiing, it chose me.” He had always been passionate about skiing and was first noticed by an Army ski officer after doing triathlons and biathlons. He started skiing for the Army and was determined to carry the sport on post-injury. He managed to successfully re-teach himself how to ski with a disability and represented Great Britain at the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Japan, finishing 14th.
“It’s a shame no one has carried on the legacy. That’s what we trying to fix now.
“To be selected would be fantastic, it’s the main aim and we want to show the world what we can do.
“For me, it’s all about challenging yourself to be the best you can at the sport. That’s why I’m putting the hard hours into my training, to compete on a world stage.
“The skiing just means I’m getting on with my life, I’m not letting my injury stop me doing something I love. This is the cards I’ve been dealt, this is where I’ve ended up and I’m getting on with it the best I can.”