No one’s path to their dreams ever runs in a straight line.
That’s especially true when you set out to become a Paralympic medallist. Standing on a Paralympic podium has always been on one of my biggest dreams and the moment I looked down and saw that medal around my neck, I saw what I was made of.
I have a special relationship with skiing. It’s my freedom from problems and from the world. I started skiing at a very young age. I loved going fast, loved every part of being on the hill. So when I was diagnosed with epilepsy, my world got put on hold. When I was little, I was the kid bullied in school. I did not have much confidence in myself, but I never fully understood why the other kids picked on me. I don’t think I stood out, but when you’re that young, being even a little different from the crowd is all it takes to bring unwanted attention. I struggled to be happy with who I was, and worried about what people thought of me. That all changed when I found ski racing — I knew this was my calling. So when skiing almost got taken away from me, it felt like I had nothing. My passion was almost swept off the table, and I was lost. Getting back on skis again was my second chance to fly.
Sometimes when we look at athletes, we only see them performing their sport, and forget about them as humans with real emotions. We don’t know the pain they may be feeling. We don’t know their back story, what has pushed them to be competitors. I am one of those athletes who has struggled to find confidence for years. So many bad things happened to me, that I started to believe life screwed with you. When I found a moment of happiness, it would be fleeting because I would anticipate something shitty coming along to ruin it. I lost my confidence while I was on the ski team a couple of times, but I always managed to work my way back to the hill. But the season before 2018 and Pyeongchang brought me to my lowest point ever.
'I was betrayed by someone I trusted'
It was an out-of-the-blue situation and it made me feel worthless. I continued to work hard in the gym, but found it more and more difficult to get out of bed. All the anger and frustration was eating away at me. As time went on, it got worse and I felt helpless. I was fighting with myself every day, sinking lower and lower. In October, I hit rock bottom, right in the middle of a ski trip with the team. I gave up. I was overwhelmed, I felt all alone, and all I wanted to do was go home. The 2018 Winter Games were only five months away, and I was willing to step away. My soul was broken. I was miserable enough to throw away three years of hard work.
Thankfully, I managed to find a way to keep going. I had to rely on the people around me, but with the games looming, this was not the time to tell the team I was falling apart. There was a lot of pressure on me to do well. I used the confidence my teammates and coaches had in me to move forward. It was not until the end of February I started to feel a little bit like my old self. I was happy to feel something positive before going to the Games, a step in the right direction. But that was a slog. I was running on autopilot. Every day was a struggle. I had to focus on little things that made me smile even if only for a moment.
I am still working everyday to gain more confidence in my sport and myself. Because I was dealt a few crappy hands in life, I have always expected the worst. But with skiing, I’ve also been given some luck. Finding confidence within yourself is a really big step. You start to become the person that others see, even if you don’t always see it in yourself. Skiing has helped me be myself, and I am happy with who I am becoming. And failure has taught me as much getting on the podium. I have learned not to fight with people around me. “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The more I work together with people, the closer I come to being the best person I can be.
When I first started getting on the podium, I wanted more. The feeling and confidence I got from winning was amazing. In 2016, I had the pleasure of watching three teammates accept crystal globes. I’d been on the overall podium in second and third place, but I really wanted a crystal globe to myself. I did it too; I have two crystal globes that I can call my own now. I am the season champion in the downhill and slalom.
My journey over the past four years has not really been about winning or losing. It has been about trying my best, and getting up more than falling down. All athletes face challenges, and I have faced more than I wish to, but how I dealt with setbacks has made me the person I am today. Alana Ramsay, Skier.
(Top large photo by Canadian Paralympic Committee; Middle large photo by Luc Percival/Alpine Canada)