Australia’s number one sit-skier, local man Mark Soyer, is seeking sponsors as he aims to represent Australia at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan will introduce a fundraiser for Mark at the Lakeside Community Centre on October 28, which community members are encouraged to attend.
Ms Ryan said it was astonishing that someone who did not spend a lot of time skiing growing up was planning to ski for Australia in the Winter Paralympics.
‘‘After a life-changing accident like Mark’s most people would struggle to return to daily life, let alone set themselves a goal of skiing for Australia,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘Mark’s story is inspirational.
‘‘I really hope people get behind this event, so that he can represent us on the world stage.’’
Tickets are available from Steph Ryan’s office at 25 Bridge St, Benalla, from Heather Soyer on 0428652347, or online at www.eventbrite.com.au/e/marks-hopes-for-the-slopes-tickets-37235523453 and cost $40.
Bookings close on October 25.
The evening will include a presentation from Mark, plenty of finger food, lots of giveaways, a live auction and entertainment from local artist Adam Toms.
Some of the auction items include a balloon flight for two, a hot lap in a V8, hand-crafted jewellery, a weekend away for two and lots more.
Mark is ranked 21 in the world at sit-skiing despite the fact that he has limited opportunity to train, spending about 75 per cent less time on the snow than his nearest rivals.
Mark has proved to be an inspiration to many disabled sportspeople by self-funding his achievements through his own savings and small fundraisers arranged by those close to him.
However, without sponsorship his dream of competing at Paralympic level may not come true.
Mark has overcome many obstacles in his life, and said he has been working towards getting to the Winter Paralympics for the past 12 years.
‘‘(It’s) very important, not only for my personal achievement but to have someone at the top end of the sport to increase the profile of winter sport, so the sport grows,’’ Mark said.
‘‘Getting sponsors on-board would be heaven.
‘‘But if it doesn’t happen in my time and it happens for someone else, that would be good because it would give a bigger exposure to the winter sports, which would be great.’’
In 1981 Mark was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, which is a form of blood cancer, and endured three years of treatment.
Despite suffering a relapse not long after, he was eventually given the all clear and was completely cured.
However, in 2004 tragedy struck, while riding his motorbike on the family farm he hit a log in long grass and broke his back, causing permanent paralysis.
Mark decided he would not let the accident and injury stop him from pursing his passion for skiing and in 2006 he travelled to Colorado to attend two ski development camps for people with a disability.
The following snow season he was approached by a talent scout who invited him to train with the Australian ski team at Thredbo.
He was subsequently invited to join the Australian Paralympic team in December 2006.
In February of 2007 Mark was hit by a car at a pedestrian crossing, was thrown from his wheelchair and required treatment for several broken ribs.
Mark has since gone on to compete at various world-standard competitions bringing home four bronze medals and one silver.
In 2015 he was given the honour of being chosen as flag bearer for the Alpine Skiing World Championships in Invermere, Canada.
Mark was back to competition in 2017 when he took part in the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Tarvisio, Italy.
However, the 2017 World Championships turned into a nightmare for Mark who, after suffering a fall at 130kph, dislocated his shoulder and was forced to pull out of the competition.
Mark is now fully focused on making the 2018 Paralympics and his training regime sees him spending hours in the gym — whether he is at the snow or not.
A standard day of snow training would include two and a half hours on the snow, more than an hour in the gym and another hour on prepping skills.
Anyone can suffer a life-changing injury at any time, and Mark is an inspiration to people who might find themselves in that situation.
His advice is to listen to doctors, get your health back to being good, and don’t wrap yourself up in cotton wool.
‘‘If you were happy with your life before your injury, you might have to do it differently but find a way to get back to what you were doing before, and get on with living,’’ he said.