John Farrow of Australia poses during a portrait session on May 29, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Farrow is aiming to qualify for the Australian Winter Olympic Team in the Skeleton event for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
John Farrow of Australia poses during a portrait session on May 29, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Farrow is aiming to qualify for the Australian Winter Olympic Team in the Skeleton event for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

Skeleton racer Farrow doing his best to keep dream alive

IF medals were handed out for courage, John Farrow would be on top of the podium.

The 31-year-old is determined to be selected for the skeleton at next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, despite suffering horrific injuries while preparing for a World Cup race in Lake Placid in November, 2011.

While warming up on a running track, Farrow tripped on his spikes and his left knee went "completely sideways".

The damage included a ruptured ACL, LCL, hamstring and popliteal tendon, a broken tibia and peroneal nerve damage in his foot.

"At the time I didn't realise just how much damage I had done," he said.

"I was lying on the ground going in and out of shock - all I remember is that I made a decision right then that I would come back. I'd be back because I wanted to go to Sochi."

But the injuries were so severe that even walking again was a distant hope.

It would take two surgeries and organ donations of a hamstring and an Achilles tendon just to get him into rehabilitation. But even then, Farrow had a major hurdle to overcome.

His foot was badly paralysed by a condition known as 'foot drop'.

"I couldn't lift it up, it would just drag along," he said.

"I knew from the doctors how long the recovery for everything else would take - except for this. With nerves, it's just one of those things. It could be permanent, it could come back. They just didn't know."

After initial surgery in New York, Farrow's doctors in Australia decided to delay the ACL operation for several months to reduce trauma on the nerve.

Despite that, he had no option but to get back on the international circuit at the end of last year to earn qualification points and keep his Olympic dream alive.

Still able to only drag his leg, friends got together and constructed splints out of plastics and then a Kevlar-Carbon compound so he could train and compete.

"The only disadvantage has been that once I am actually on the sled, my foot angles a weird way so it is not aerodynamic," he said.

Thankfully he now has a specially-designed orthotic which allows him to lift his foot. Even better, he has recently begun experiencing signs the nerves could be healing.

"I have flickers in my toes and I can lift my foot against gravity. I have gone from walking around with a floppy foot for 19 months to having some signs of hope that it might come back," Farrow said.

"I'm looking forward to hopefully being 100% by Sochi."

 

Skeleton sporting facts

  • Skeleton requires a competitor to lay face down on a small sled, sliding downhill at up to 140kmh on an icy track also used for luge and bobsled races.
  • Riders use rakes on their boots, in addition to shifting body weight, to help steer and brake.


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