"The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart."
- Fritz Lang
For Tyler Mosher, it wasn't just a mediator - it was the motivator that made him walk again.
The 37-year-old skier and snowboarder from Whistler is primed to represent his country in two cross-country skiing events at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Though he isn't confident of his chances for a medal, he's feeling as strong as he ever has and looks to finish among the world's best in the 10-kilometre and classic sprint races, on March 18 and 21, respectively.
"The top guys in my division could beat half of the field in the Olympic division," he says in an interview. "That's the level that we're competing at."
Mosher says he's been an athlete all his life. Born in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, he played football and rugby growing up and played for UBC's varsity rugby team between 1990 and 1991. Around the same time he began spending his summers in Whistler and moved here full-time after he was finished school.
With a degree in environmental planning from another school, he ended up designing landscapes for a living... and riding as a lifestyle.
Mosher's life as an athlete came to a halt in 2000, when he was snowboarding on the Blackcomb Glacier. He rode over a snow drift that covered a 10-metre hole in the glacier. He fell into the hole, "exploding" his L1 vertebra and damaging his spinal cord. Ten hours of surgery found the spinal cord damage wasn't as bad as it might have been, but doctors weren't optimistic about his chances of walking again.
"They said it was highly unlikely," Mosher says. "In fact they said I wouldn't walk again. It wasn't until post-surgery that we had some recruitment of muscles, but in general the realism that I was prepared for, even if I could walk again, was that I would fatigue and fall and I would always have to have a wheelchair nearby."
Soon Mosher discovered that he could regain some muscle use in his lower body. He would never use some of his internal organs again and his back had to be reconstructed using titanium rods but there was still some strength left in his legs.
Though preparing for life in a wheelchair, he did physiotherapy for six to eight hours a day in the wake of his accident and literally taught his body to walk again.
"Although I was learning to walk a bit, aided by a walker, two canes or at this point, parallel bars, it wasn't realistic that I would be walking out of (the rehabilitation centre)," he says.