Alistair Hodgson - Overcoming ObstaclesBy Betsy Barnhouse on 2000-10-08
Everyone has some kind of disability; some seen outwardly, while others are not readily visible to the naked eye. Some live with the notion that the only limits we have are the ones that are self-imposed. This was clearly evident in my interaction with Alistair. Alistair came to spend a month at Skydive Arizona, his goal to become a more proficient freeflyer.
I was so inspired by this young man that I decided to have a word with Craig Girard. I asked Craig if he would consider making a jump with him, Craig's response was a resounding yes! I then spoke with Greg Gasson about doing a photo shoot with him and Greg informed me that he had met Alistair in Sweden at a freefly festival. They had been in contact via email prior to Alistair's arrival in Arizona. Greg had taken the time to ensure that there wouldn't be anything that would prevent Alistair from jumping at the DZ, and of course he would certainly jump with him. Small world. Needless to say, Alistair is exuberant at the prospect of jumping with these two world- class skydivers that are now on his growing list of friends.
One morning while waiting for the first lift, I asked Alistair how long he had been skydiving and why he partakes in the sport. He told me that his legs were "blown off" twelve years ago by a land mine in Ireland. He took up skydiving three years ago to experience life. In his easy manner he looked at me and posed the same question. I answered simply that I had found freedom and a sense of community. His response was a quick: "Exactly!"
Alistair resides in England and according to him, is the first double amputee to take up skydiving in that country. He began his journey by experiencing tandems, three to be exact, and was then offered a course in freefall. Although he had static line experience from serving in the military, it was nothing compared to what he is doing now. Alistair says that he has tried everything from rock climbing to kayaking since his amputations, and found skydiving to have been the best rehabilitation. He states that he is better physical shape now, and his life much richer than before he lost his legs. Alistair went as far as to say that he even drinks less than he used to since he wants to feel his best for the next day's jumping.
He offers that skydiving has given him his life back, and it is the only thing that he is interested in doing. His travels have taken him to several countries, and Alistair has found that the people in skydiving are generally approachable and open- minded. They are quick to offer him a hand up by lifting him into the airplane, other than that he isn't treated any differently. He feels as though he is accepted in this community, he belongs. There is of course, a curiosity that goes along with seeing a skydiver without legs, but for the most part he says that people are just glad to see him participate.
During his visit here he was approached by one of the camera flyers for "Pieces of Eight" and asked if he was interested in flying with them. Alistair responded by saying he appreciated the inquiry and would get back to him.
Alistair jumps in a custom made Merlin Suit that has small pockets on the legs to help catch air. He says that the suit has made all the difference for him in his freeflying. Alistair managed to maintain head-down all the way to break off for the first time while here, and is excited to learn to fly his body in this new orientation.
I asked him if he had one piece of knowledge to impart to his fellow skydivers, what would that be? He said: "If you think you can't do something, you're right, you can't! Can't isn't something that I recognize in my vocabulary." Alistair has nearly 600 jumps to date and hopes to add an additional 100 before returning to his native England.
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