Words by: Danielle Sellwood | Find it Film
Millie first went skiing at the age of 6, just after she had lost her eyesight due to an infection. She still remembers that excitement of driving up the windy road to the resort and feeling the cold, fresh air and crunchy snow underfoot. None of that excitement has been lost as Millie, now a two time Paralympic skier, describes how it feels to ski with her guide Brett Wild at speeds up to 117km per hour.
Millie is the third of four women sharing their experiences of sport and adventure through our #EngageYourSenses project with Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports. In their own words, the women describe what they feel, see, smell, taste and hear during their adventures and explain how these experiences enrich their lives.
Communication is key to being able to ski at such a high level, Brett skis two-three metres in front of Millie, which is just enough for her to be able to see his bright orange jacket. If he goes any further away then she relies entirely on their audio communications. At this point Millie focuses in on every last detail, what he’s saying, the tone of his voice, his breathing, until she’s got him back in her vision.
“It is stressful when I can’t see him because out of the two senses I use, having one of them gone is quite difficult.”
Inevitably, skiing at this level doesn’t always go to plan. At last years World Downhill Championships, Millie crashed into the barriers at the bottom of the course at 115km per hour. It wasn’t until sometime later after she’d been checked over, had an equipment test and been through doping control that she found out she’d won the race and earned the title of World Champion.
Then at the World Cup test event in South Korea it happened again,
“I was thinking wow, we’re going quite fast...I think we might win this. I’d crossed the line and I had a flashback of my previous race where I’d crashed and the next thing I knew I was tumbling and hit my head twice.…I don’t remember all of that. That’s just from what my guide has told me. The next thing I knew I was being stretchered off and put into an ambulance. It was a bit of a scary time.”
This second crash took Millie five months to recover from. Alongside very bad concussion, she had the added stress of A level studies. But with the help of sports psychologist Kelly Fay she has learned strategies and techniques to overcome the difficulties, “She’s amazing… without her I probably would be falling to pieces.”
It’s hard to imagine after all she’s been through, but skiing fast is when Millie is happiest; and now, as she approaches her second Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, that excitement she first felt aged six is back and she’s focused on winning a medal.
Millie will be competing at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, which run 9-18th March. The Downhill event is scheduled for Saturday 10th.
Keep up to date with Millie’s story via her website millieknight.co.uk and on Twitter: @knight_millie