Squamish paralympian falls into grace 

After tumbling off a chairlift, Alex Cairns still makes personal best placement at world champs

click to enlarge PHOTO: MARCUS HARTMAN - Alex Cairns in 2016.
  • Alex Cairns in 2016.

An unlucky seven-foot fall from a chairlift didn't stop local paralympian Alex Cairns from placing at lucky Number 7 on his 27th birthday.

Cairns was one among 20 athletes who were racing in the men's slalom sit-skiing event of the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships on Jan. 23.

At the event in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, he finished with at 1:04.04, which wasn't his best time on the clock, but it did lead to his strongest ranking yet.

All of this happened after the renowned Squamish athlete's unexpected chairlift accident. On top of that, Cairns was feeling sick.

"It was a bad day — it was a really bad day," he said, laughing.

Luckily, as he fell, Cairns hit a catch platform, which meant he didn't have to take a full 20-foot dive into the ground.

"Using a chairlift is the hardest part about sit-skiing, for sure," he said.

Chairlifts generally don't lend themselves well to accommodating sit-skis, and it can be a struggle for the athletes to get on and off, Cairns noted.

"It's the first time I've ever done that at the top of a chair," he said with a chuckle. "I've misloaded before, but never fallen off before the end."

Fortunately, the fall didn't severely affect him.

"I went up and actually skied my first race run right after that," Cairns said.

There's a scar on his arm and a tendon in one of his wrists flipped to the other side of where it's supposed to be. He anticipates a few more weeks of taping it up should set things straight.

"I caught myself with my hands, luckily — not my head," he said.

The complacency of a good ranking and the pain of unexpected injuries aren't stopping Cairns.

When reached by The Chief, he was already back training in Kimberly, B.C.

He'll be off for another round of competitions in Spain and France in early March.


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