For Melissa Perrine, there’s nothing quite like barreling down a mountainside – really, really fast. “The sensation of a run is scary and amazing, both at the same time,” she said. “A speed run is certainly what I prefer to do – I like going fast.”
But unlike many skiers, this Australian Paralympian’s nerves are particularly steely; suffering from a degenerative visual impairment since birth, Melissa skis with the assistance of a guide.
The relationship between Melissa and renowned ski coach and guide, Andy Bor, has been an intrinsic part of her success. According to Melissa, it’s all about trust. “I essentially trust him with my life and he has to be able to trust me to be there right with him, down every single run, down every single turn,” she said. “It's a friendship, it's a partnership, it's completely unique.”
Five years of athletic partnership has made Melissa and Andy a formidable team. Competing in her first Paralympics in Vancouver 2010, Melissa has since then taken home a silver and bronze at the 2011-2012 World Cup. Since November last year, she’s been hard at work training overseas for the Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, and is competing there this week.
“It's been a very long time on the road,” said Melissa. “Every day has been spent working up to what will be 10 days of races after four years of very, very hard work.”
In her mind, the determination and commitment to serious training is what separates good skiers from the great. “You have to be committed to this lifestyle; committed to training; working hard for what you want,” she said. “You really need to be dedicated.”
And this year, Melissa and Andy are unambiguously going for gold. “To win a medal would be amazing; it'd be definitely one of the best things I've ever done,” she said. “The ski hill is great and is really set up for the downhill and speed.”
But in the end, Melissa said that just having the opportunity to be a Paralympian is a reward in itself. “While it would mean a lot if Andy and I could come away with a medal from these Games, I just want to look back on the Games and know that I've put everything into it and have no regrets.”