The shit Callum Watson loves to do is difficult. Really difficult. If you’re passionate about almost anything other than Olympic Level Cross Country Skiing you’re bloody lucky. Because for Callum, his passion means regularly pushing his body to the limits of physical effort and discomfort. Pushing his lungs to be stronger than Tour de France winners. It means countless hours spent outdoors in sub zero temperatures. It means working long exhausting hours to support the huge expenses associated with competing in his sport. And for Callum, his passion almost cost him his life.
After recently copping a ski pole through the lung in a hectic sprint race, the challenge to be best in the world has never been greater, but the rewards of recovery, according to Callum, have never been more tantalising…
DSM: You’re on the Australian Cross Country Ski Team and represented Australia at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. But right now you’ve had quite the unexpected interruption to your training. Explain what happened to you at the Australian Sprint Championships on August 16.
CW: It was during the National Sprint Championships in a tight semi-final. Unfortunately my ski was clipped by the skier beside me causing me to get flung around and land in the path of Swiss skier, Simon Hammer. With it all happening far too quickly he had no-where to go and his ski hit my upper chest. Laying there in in shock, my first reaction was to get up – as it always is in ski racing, however as I tried I soon realised I was in a lot more trouble than I could even imagine was possible.
‘As I pushed to get myself up, I felt air gushing from my chest and immediately collapsed with an overwhelming inability to breath. The ski had gone straight through my race suit and skin then found it’s way between my ribs and into my right lung.’
DSM: Holy Shiiiiiiit. That’s insane. I had no idea the sport was so dangerous! Even without being stabbed through the chest, I’ve heard that Cross Country skiing is one of the most physically draining sports known to man. How did you start and what attracts you to doing such difficult shit, especially with a life-threatening setback like this? Most people would use something like this as an excuse to chill for a while!
CW: My parents got me into it and growing up in the Snowy Mountains helped a lot. I suppose I just became addicted to the competitiveness of it all, but more importantly, I became addicted to just leaving everything out there on the race track.
‘It’s one of the most uncomfortable feelings, pushing your body to its absolute maximum, but the level of accomplishment after a good result is hugely satisfying.’
You were stronger and able to put yourself through more pain than everyone else out there. It probably sounds ridiculous to many but I suppose everyone has dreams they chase – this is mine.
Yeah it was a pretty severe and amazingly painful setback to get through, but in a way it makes me push even harder once I return to health. Imagine the satisfaction of skiing well after such a setback – that’s what fuels me
DSM: How can people help out with your recovery? People have a perception that being an elite olympic athlete you must just be rolling in cash right?
CW: Some Olympic athletes do make good money for their achievements, however that never really comes until you are an Olympic medal winner. My team mates and friends from other sports do ridiculous stuff to support our own sporting careers. Before the accident I was working as a coach – I would therefore spend 4hrs a day coaching kids, whilst doing 4-5hours of my own training – That’s pretty much the whole day on snow. So you can imagine with half the season being taken away from me, half of my income is gone. In addition, I had a complication with my health insurer at exactly the wrong time. In short, my health cover was suppose to be paused while I was away in Sweden for 9months and resumed again once I returned.
‘Unfortunetly this didn’t happen, so I have a bill in excess of $12000 to meet to cover the emergency chopper flight from Falls Creek to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.’
DSM: So the ‘Help Rebuilt Callum Watson‘ fund is up and running to help cover that huge bill. People can head there now and donate! What’s the plan of attack from here on in for Callum Watson,?
‘I have a big training base behind me and a coach who reckons I’ll be skiing faster than I ever have by the time World Champs come around in February!’
This isn’t the first time I thought he was thinking a little optimistically, but he hasn’t been wrong yet. So I’ll just follow his plan and I now I have the determination to send it harder than ever!
DSM: To other people who are having setbacks achieving their goals what would you say, as someone right in the middle of this super difficult time?
For me, the satisfaction of beating guys that I have skied close to all my career after such a setback would be the most rewarding feeling. It drives me to go harder than ever to achieve that particular goal – and that wouldn’t be a goal if it hadn’t happened. Yes, other cool dreams have been put on hold – but this one is equally as good.
To support Callum head here now!
To keep up with Callum hit up his blog here