Phil Chew 

An interview with the paralympics coach on the evolution of alpine skiing
and the Paralympics

Phil Chew is an icon in the world of alpine skiing. He began skiing seriously in 1977 at age 25 after losing his leg to an aggressive form of cancer, and even at age 38 he was ranked second in the world. He is a three-time Paralympian, five-time Canadian Champion, a U.S. Champion in downhill skiing, and a winner of the combined at the European championship level.

Today he is the coach of the B.C. Disabled Ski Team and is working both on the front lines and behind the scenes to make the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games successful for B.C. athletes and Whistler, which he calls home and where he is raising his family.

Today, front and centre for Chew is getting sponsorship for the team to make sure athletes get to the Nor Am races that are vital to their development.

But three years from now Whistler will be in the midst of hosting the Paralympic Games so Pique Newsmagazine’s Clare Ogilvie sat down with Chew in his Creekside home to learn more about the athlete, and his hopes for the Games.

Pique: How did you first get involved with skiing?

Chew: In 1977 I was diagnosed with cancer and lost my leg. I did a year of chemotherapy — and it’s interesting because while I was doing that chemo I met Terry Fox and I got to know him in the cancer clinic. There must be something in the water out west here when you think of what Terry accomplished, then there’s Rick Hansen, Steve Fonyo and even me. I learned to ski right after I finished my chemotherapy through the B.C. Disabled Ski Team.

I didn’t know how to ski, but I was athletic.

The thing is there was an 80 per cent fatality rate with the type of bone cancer that I had so I wasn’t very optimistic about my future. So everything became about skiing to me, because it was exciting and it was one thing that made me feel equal. I needed something to be equal. I wasn’t playing soccer anymore or jogging like I used to so this was a sport that I could take on to (help) make things equal.

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