• Taking on Sochi: Meet Australia's first female Paralympic sit-ski athlete
The Paralympics kick off in Sochi this weekend and the Australian team is hoping to bring home a few medals. The Feed sat down with Aussie sit-skier Victoria Pendergast as she prepared to fly out for Sochi.
Airdate: 
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

With the Sochi Olympics well and truly over there's a new batch of athletes preparing to hit the slopes for the 2014 Paralympics.

The Australian contingent is just 11 strong but they are still hoping to bring home a few medals.

23-year-old Victoria 'Tori' Pendergast is one of Australia's best medal chances and is competing in the sit-ski Slalom and Grand Slalom events. Athletes competing in these events can reach speeds of 100 km/hr or more although Tori says she averages around 80km/hr.

"I just love the fact that you can... go faster than any normal person would on the slopes," says Tori. "It's just a sense of freedom."

Tori was born with Sacral Agenesis a condition that means the lower part of the spine is missing. People with the condition are often impaired from the waist down and in Tori's case this means she has less muscles in her legs and it's also affected her kidneys.

"It just makes things harder," says Tori. "The biggest thing for me is going to tall places and having to reach things at the very top of the cupboard makes things a bit challenging."

"But otherwise it doesn’t restrict me too much."

While Tori has trouble walking and standing for long periods of time, she is able to move with relative freedom and independence.

Tori can even drive using hand controls and can't imagine doing it any other way.

"I think it would be more difficult driving with pedals," she says. "I mean for you you’d be like that’s so complicated, but for me it’s like 'oh God, pedals, how do we even put pressure on these things'."

"Once you learn to do something that’s what the normal is for you."

Growing up in East Gosford, Tori was the second of three children. She attended primary school locally and then commuted to Sydney for high school. Her parents both work in the medical field and she credits them with giving her the life she has today.

Tori says her parents made sure she wasn't treated any differently from her siblings and always encouraged her to do anything she wanted.

"Mum and dad have always grown up with the approach that you’re no different to anyone else," says Tori. "The way they’ve treated me and how they’ve done things, I think they’ve done a really good job."

Tori's even done a business degree at UTS and hopes that one day she can put that to good use. But for the moment her focus has been on training for the biggest event of her life.


But Tori's love of skiing is relatively new. She started skiing in Year 10 after one of her sisters was on a snow trip and noticed a few people with disabilities skiing on the slopes. Her family decided to give it a try and after that it didn't take long for skiing to get competitive for Tori.

In 2010 Tori made her competitive debut and at Sochi she will become Australia's first female sit-ski athlete to compete at a Paralympics. The training schedule is hard but Tori says she's aiming to bring home a medal.

"I don’t get to see my family as much as I’d like and I miss out on certain things happening with my friends."

"But in the end you know what you’re doing is pretty, pretty awesome."

Follow The Feed on Facebook and Twitter to be part of the conversation.