Skier forced out of NZ Paralympics 17 Feb 1998


New Zealand will be represented by a team of five racers at the 1998 Paralympics in Nagano, Japan, after a team member had to withdraw due to illness.

International racer Kevin Aleksich (31) was forced to withdraw from the Winter Paralympics because of Hepatitis C. Ranked sixth in the world, Aleksich was a strong medal chance. The Queenstown skier trained and raced in Europe last year.

"It's frustrating, especially after all the preparation I did last year, I know I'm up there," he said. Hepatitis C has sapped Aleksich's strength, making it impossible for him to train for top international competition.

Aleksich grew up in Tauranga and his left leg was amputated above the knee, 10 years ago, due to cancer. His present problems stem from that operation at Tauranga, as the infection came from a blood transfusion.

Aleksich can no longer work as a plumber and gas fitter in Queenstown.

"I need at least 10 hours sleep a night," he said. "I was coming home from work, having a shower and then falling asleep on the couch."

It took Aleksich nearly two years to recover after his amputation. Life took on new meaning when he started skiing in 1992. At his first Paralympics in Norway, 1994, he finished 13th.

Since then his international career has blossomed. Last year he won the Swiss Super G title when competing on the World Cup circuit.

Despite his latest setback, Aleksich remains optimistic. He says he just wants to start his liver treatment and get on with life.

The team going to Nagano in March is Rachael Battersby, Mathew Butson, Kevin O'Sullivan, Steven Bayley, Suzanne Walker and her guide David Gardiner.

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