Mark Ludbrook seeks recognition simply as a good skier
"If youre at the top and get taken down not because of your skiing but because of a factoring system then thats got to eat away at you and your psyche because you want to be number one and to be recognized as such."
Mark Ludbrook, or Luddy, as hes also known locally, is undoubtedly one of Whistlers most accomplished and ambitious athletes. For almost 20 years Ludbrook has represented Canada at national and international sporting events around the world as a left leg, below-knee amputee initially as a member of the Canadian Disabled Swimming Team for 12 years, until 1992, and subsequently as a member of the Canadian National Disabled Ski Team. During that time, he has worked up an impressive sporting resume, including breaking of three national disabled freestyle swimming records and taking home multiple medals in the Canadian Disabled Ski Championships, Disabled World Cups and both the summer and winter Paralypic Games, including a bronze medal in super G at the 1998 Nagano Paralympics. Most recently he came fourth in the GS at the 2000 World Champs in Switzerland.
According to ski industry statistics, most people get involved with the sport initially through their families. However, Ludbrook says his desire to hit the slopes came as a surprise to his non-skiing family.
"After the accident with a snow-blower when I was young I remember saying in hospital that I didnt want them to amputate my leg because I wouldnt be able to ski so my mother enrolled me in the learn-to-ski program at Georgian Peaks, Ontario the year after." Ludbrook says skiing was "love at first try" although it was a challenge. "I learned with just the one ski and outriggers at first because there wasnt a suitable prosthetic available," he says.
Upon moving to Whistler in 1992, however, he quickly realized the benefits of using an artificial limb and therefore two skis.
"If youve got the knee you might as well use it, its that extra joint available for skiing," he explains. "Missing an ankle still offers a challenge though because you dont have that flexion to absorb the bumps and be smooth through them."
He says overall it means less pressure available for edging. The secret apparently lies in making balanced left and right turns.
"Certainly for racing it takes a little more of a soft touch to be where you want to be and go the speeds. If youre too hard on the edge its going to slow you down, and too soft youre going into the fence."