August 3, 2002
Water skiing offers physically challenged athletes confidence, independence
By Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
BRANDON, Miss.—Before the car accident that changed his life forever, Donald Vowell didn’t see what was so special about water skiing.
But now as a quadriplegic, the 29 year-old Ackerman resident can’t help smiling as he enjoys the thrill of zipping through the waves.
Vowell isn’t letting his injury change his plans. He’s still going to Mississippi State University this fall to pursue his master’s degree in business administration and he’s finding a new freedom through water skiing.
Ginny Boydston, the director of therapeutic recreation at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, holds water ski clinics each summer for physically challenged athletes. World champion and gold medallist skier Bill Bowness serves as instructor for the course.
Since 1989, Methodist Rehab has been offering water ski clinics to those with disabilities. For the past eight years Bowness and his wife, Denise, have been a part of those workshops.
It’s just another way to work with the disabled and get them back into an active lifestyle, said Boydston. “So many people skied before their injury and everyone wants to be involved in water sports. With skiing, they get a chance to enjoy being outside in the water and under the sun. Everybody enjoys it,” she said.
Disabled skiers at Methodist Rebab, ski using a kan-ski – a wide, single board with a cage attached to it that the rider sits in. Weaker skiers use a wider board and hold on to the cage while stronger skiers grab the tow rope and perform jumps and other tricks.
Having a world-class disabled skier come in and help makes the skiing experience even more rewarding.
“When Bill came, the whole program just blossomed, said Boydston. “He knows exactly what disabled skiers need and he knows the best techniques to teach them and his lake is absolutely perfect for beginners. Having him here is wonderful.”
And beginners like Vowell know it.
“Bill knows so much about skiing,” said Vowell. “I didn’t really know what I was doing at first, but he’s always encouraging me and showing me new things to try.”
Tupelo resident Randy Lavender has been skiing for several years and looks forward to improving each summer. But what he loves even more than the sensation of blasting through the water is telling other people with disabilities about his experiences.
An accomplished wheelchair racer, tri-athlete and skier, Lavender encourages others to take up sports and become more active. “I love what I do and I have a lot of fun doing it, but what I really love is showing my pictures and videos to someone who doesn’t know about all the things a person in a wheelchair can do. I love to see the looks on their faces.”
Through practice, Lavender is close to accomplishing the ultimate goal of the Methodist Rehab ski clinics—skiing completely independently.
“It’s what we hope all of our patients can achieve,” said Boydston. “We hope that when they leave the clinics, they’ll take what they’ve learned and be able to get out there with everyone else and have a great time.”
For more information:
Injury motivational tool for skier | The Clarion-Ledger
Donald Vowell, a 29 year-old Ackerman resident, has learned to water ski at a special Methodist Rehabiltation Center clinic for people with physical disabilities.
Ginny Boydston, director of therapeutic recreation at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, helps Donald Vowell learn to water ski. Vowell, 29, and other physically challenged athletes are participating in the Jackson hospital's water ski clinic.
Tupelo resident Randy Lavender is close to accomplishing his ultimate goal--skiing completely independently. Lavender and other physically challenged athletes are participating in Methodist Rehabilitation Center's water ski clinic in Brandon.