Flying high again: Induced coma to Olympic hopeful, it's a family affair for Wallace
Freestyle Skiing

Flying high again: Induced coma to Olympic hopeful, it's a family affair for Wallace

16 February 2018 / 16:30

Being the son of two Olympians could be viewed as a heavy burden for aerial skier Lloyd Wallace – not least when both parents competed in the same event as him.

But sometimes having that knowledge and understanding helps, as he learned when a heavy crash left him in a coma last summer.


A multiple national champion gymnast and competent all-round skier in his youth, Wallace junior first tried his hand at aerial skiing aged 14, following in the footsteps of mum and dad Robin Wallace and Jilly Curry who competed for Team GB at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Winter Games respectively.

The sport involves propelling oneself up to six metres in the air off a jump – often reaching speeds of up to 60-70kph – and then performing multiple flips and twists to impress judges before attempting to safely land again.

It is not without it’s dangers, even during summer training when skiers land in water rather than on snow.

“I’ve had big crashes in the past and psychologically I’ve had to get over those hurdles because crashing is a part of it unfortunately,” explained Wallace.

“I think any sport that you put a crash helmet on for you know the risks, you’re willing to take the risks.”

As a 14 year old starting out, Wallace recalls going head first into a lake after a back flip went slightly wrong, but he was back to it, performing his first flip on snow not long afterwards.

Fast forward to the present day and another training crash into water took on a whole new level of seriousness for Wallace.

“It was just a normal training at the water ramp I’d done a few jumps already that session,” recalls Wallace, about the incident during a routine training session in Mettmenstetten, Switzerland on August 17.

“That is the trick I’ve got my best result with, probably one of my most comfortable tricks.

“I was just very unlucky. I was coming down the ramp and I just caught an edge, apparently quite a bad edge, and it put me off balance.

“Because we go through so much compression when we go up the jump I buckled into the jump and hit from my hips to my head and was knocked out immediately.” 

Fortunately for Wallace, team doctors for Ukraine and Russia were nearby and able to haul him out of the water before he was airlifted to Zurich hospital and placed in a coma for 24 hours.

The young Brit, who suffered only severe concussion, remembers nothing of the accident, only waking up a few days later in hospital.

Given the potential of what could have happened though, some would not have blamed him for seeking his thrills elsewhere. But the Wallace family are made of sterner stuff.

“Both of my parents went to the Olympics doing this sport. My dad coached it for years and years,” explained Wallace, whose younger sister Elodie is also part of the British Aerial Ski team.

“They knew it could happen, we’re very happy that nothing serious did happen – well, nothing serious in the long term has happened and they’re fine. 

“There was never a point where we were thinking ‘Lloyd’s going to come out of hospital and not ski again.’

“It didn’t matter how long it was going to take, I was always going to get back on it and try and qualify for the Games.”

A period of enforced rest and rehabilitation followed but Wallace was back training within two months and returned to the snow ahead of the new season.

“I was slightly more cautious but I think that’s just a natural reaction. And luckily I didn’t remember it so I think that psychologically it’s not going to be as big a hurdle,” added Wallace.

“I’ve just got to go, get back into it, do my best, make sure I’m feeling good jumping good and it’s looking positive for the Games.

“I’m not expecting to go and get a medal but aerials is an incredibly high-risk sport,” he said.

“There’s four knockout rounds. If it goes well, anything can happen in competition. It’s just one jump and every round is effectively a new competition so you crash one of those jumps, you’re out.

“If it goes well for me, if I jump to the ability I know I can jump, I might be able to get myself into that super final. It’s anyone’s game then.”

Chances are mum Jilly, dad Robin and sister Elodie will be watching on closely too.

By Pippa Field, Sportsbeat 

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